Sergio Garcia sat with members of the European media on Wednesday and apologized for his ill-timed and poorly-worded "joke" about Tiger Woods at Tuesday night's European PGA Tour black-tie event, suggesting he would serve the best golfer in the world fried chicken for dinner when they play in the U.S. Open next month.
Garcia later apologized to those who were offended, the European tour, his European Ryder Cup teammates and, finally, Woods (via The Guardian):
I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I obviously was kind of going by the question, but don’t get me wrong, I understand that my answer was totally stupid and out of place. I can’t say sorry enough about that....
Finally, and most importantly, I want to apologize to Tiger and to anybody that I could have offended by the comment I made. I just want to say that I feel sick about it. I’m truly, truly sorry.
The apology was as sincere and heartfelt as one could expect from Garcia, who clearly comes out of this situation looking like a total buffoon. It was noteworthy that Garcia apologized to Woods last, not first, but his statement certainly underscored how important he felt it was to apologize publicly to Tiger for his comment.
Time to move on, right? Well, Garcia didn't exactly handle the media's questions as well as he handled his opening statement, leading one to wonder if he is ignorant and naive, or just pretending to be.
Making an Effort to Reach Tiger
When asked if he had personally reached out to Woods, Garcia explained that he didn't have Tiger's number, but that he left a message for Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, hoping to set up a call.
Here's the thing about that one, Sergio: It shouldn't be that hard to find Tiger's number.
Garcia, after all, is playing a European PGA Tour event this weekend with dozens of other professional golfers. One of them surely has a working phone number for Woods.
Garcia said he spoke with higher-ups within the PGA about his comment. Surely commissioner Tim Finchem has Tiger's cell phone number.
Failing that, Woods was on Twitter earlier on Wednesday to share his thoughts on Sergio's comment. Garcia could have easily followed Woods on Twitter, sent him a message through social media and asked Tiger to DM (direct message) a phone number to ensure he had a chance to speak with Woods before talking to the media.
Note: Garcia, who is verified on Twitter, has not tweeted since August, 2011. Today would have been the perfect day to start that up again.
Sergio, Meet Fuzzy
Sergio's gaffes went beyond his inability to call Woods before he talked to the press. Garcia admitted during the conference that he was unaware of Fuzzy Zoeller's comment during the 1997 Masters, when Zoeller overshadowed the epic victory by Woods after making a "fried chicken and collard greens" comment about the following year's champion's dinner. Sergio said he was made aware of the comment for the first time on Wednesday, suggesting that he was only 17 years old at the time and was unaware.
But how could Sergio not know about Zoeller's comment? I was 19 at the time and still recall it being one of the biggest stories of the year in American sports.
Garcia didn't play professionally in America until 1999—his first professional tournament in America was the 1999 Masters—but he was a highly regarded amateur in the game and that was one of the biggest stories in golf that year, especially on the heels of Woods' record-setting victory at Augusta.
Perhaps Sergio didn't remember it, but suggesting he didn't know about it is patently ridiculous.
Still, that may not have been the dumbest thing Garcia said to the press on Wednesday. Sergio apologized for his offensive remark, but stopped short of admitting it was racist (via GolfChannel.com video):
Reporter: Sergio, you spoke about it being a silly comment, do you accept it was a racist comment, or do you disagree with that?
Garcia: No. Not at all. It wasn't meant that way. Like I said before, I was caught off guard at what seemed to be a funny question and I tried to give a funny answer that came out totally wrong. I want to make sure that everybody knows that I'm very, very sorry. I cannot apologize enough times.
To be clear, in Garcia's own words, he does not accept that his comment was racist—"not at all"—but admits it came out totally wrong and he is "very, very sorry" for saying it. But if he does not believe the comment is racist, what exactly is he sorry about?
Is Garcia "very, very sorry" for an inappropriate and clearly racist comment or is he only "very, very sorry" that this became a story so big he needed to hold an entire press conference about it so he could apologize?
Garcia has a long and less-than-cordial past with Woods, so he must have known that any snide remark about the world's best player would make international news. That said, making a comment—joking or not—with any racial undertones was a dangerous move for Garcia to make. Not owning up to the racism the next day, even while apologizing for it, is somehow even worse.
The reporter didn't ask Garcia if he intended it to be a racist comment, only if he accepts that it was.
If Garcia can't accept that making a fried chicken reference about Woods is racist—even if Garcia truly didn't know about the past comments from Zoeller—he's lying to himself, lying to the media and lying to Woods.
Sergio cannot be this stupid. Unless he is, which given his comments, he just might be.