At the U.S. Open, Sergio Garcia is going to be enemy No. 1.
It's not often that there are major villains in the sport of golf, but the 33-year-old has made himself an easy target with an embarrassing and revolting month.
With a chance to win the Players Championship in May, he hit three balls into the water on the 17th and 18th holes, going quadruple-bogey and double-bogey to drop into a tie for eighth place.
The meltdown was catastrophic:
Still, it's not like Garcia hasn't provided train-wreck moments under immense pressure before. It can be funny to watch and make jokes on Twitter, sure, but it's certainly not enough reason to genuinely dislike the guy.
Then he just had to open his mouth.
On the Saturday of the tournament, Garcia complained that his shot from a fairway was disrupted by cheers from a crowd surrounding Tiger Woods.
OK, still not a reason to legitimately hate him, but playing the blame game—especially the lame blame game—isn't usually met with much positivity from the sports world.
Then he took it one step further.
When asked at a European Tour players dinner if he would quell the tension with Woods by getting dinner with the World's No. 1 at the U.S. Open, he answered with what he thought was a joke:
"We'll have him 'round every night. We will serve fried chicken."
Oh, man. Garcia apologized on two separate occasions, but Woods, easily the most popular golfer in the world, was clearly affected:
The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate...— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 22, 2013
If there's a book on how to perfectly alienate every American golf fan just weeks before playing a major event on American soil, Garcia is the author.
There's a chance that the heat surrounding the Spaniard has died down a bit. It has been a few weeks since that incident, and Woods shaking Garcia's hand on Monday should help ease the tension:
Nevertheless, retired golfer Colin Montgomerie predicts a heavy dose of boo-birds in Garcia's U.S. Open forecast:
When asked if García would be subjected to booing, Montgomerie said: "Yes, he could do, which is very sad for our game. Remember we're only a couple of hours from New York and it's a lively crowd and I think he could well be booed. You would feel for him, but the trouble is [if] you feel for him that's you condoning it. So you can't feel sorry for him because you're condoning it. So it's very difficult—it's a very difficult situation to be in."
Remember, the City of Brotherly Love (this year's Open is at Merion Golf Course, located just west of Philadelphia) once booed Santa Claus:
Where will Garcia finish at the U.S. Open?
If good ol' St. Nick has been harassed, then Garcia surely isn't safe from the wrath of the raucous fans. He's going to have to be mentally strong this week.
To make things more difficult, Merion is a course that—while not incredibly long—necessitates shot-making and putting, two things that are more mental than physical.
As such, still looking for his first career major victory, Garcia will have the odds—and fans—against him this weekend.