Sergio Garc a has denied racist intent in his comments towards Tiger Woods on Tuesday night with the Spaniard also escaping any punishment from golf's ruling bodies for his now infamous remarks at the European Tour's annual gala dinner.
A clearly shaken Garc a spoke at a hastily arranged conference at Wentworth yesterday afternoon. By then he was at the centre of a storm after controversially answering a playful question about inviting Woods over for dinner at next month's US Open. The pair have been engaged in verbal warfare since the Players Championship earlier this month.
Woods himself has branded Garcia's words as wrong hurtful and clearly inappropriate . The European Tour has opted not to offer any sanction to Garc a but the golfer's sponsors may yet have other ideas.
The Spaniard was on stage and with microphone in hand at the European Tour event at Heathrow when the question was posed in front of around 350 guests. His answer conjured memories of Fuzzy Zoeller's 1997 widely interpreted as racist jibe towards a young Woods. We will have him round every night Garc a said. We will serve fried chicken.
Sixteen years ago Zoeller was in the midst of a similar furore for using an almost identical analogy when being disparaging towards Woods. When discussing his maiden major win and the choice of menu at the following year's champions dinner Zoeller said You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve. The food items have been historically and pejoratively used towards African Americans.
Obviously I want to send an apology Garc a said. I didn't mean to offend anyone. I obviously was caught off guard 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.
Most importantly I want to apologise to Tiger and anybody that I would have offended by the comment I made and you know just to say that I feel sick about it. I am truly truly sorry and I hope that we can settle down and hopefully move on. I'm sure that we will be able to talk soon and I will apologise to him face to face.
When asked if he accepted his remark was racist Garc a replied Not at all. It wasn't meant that way. I was caught off guard in what seemed to be a funny question and I tried to give a funny answer that came out totally wrong.
Garc a left a telephone message with Mark Steinberg Woods's manager to put forward those sentiments in person. He also held a Wentworth meeting with George O'Grady the European Tour's chief executive and Tim Finchem the commissioner of the US PGA Tour. Both were present at the dinner.
Woods took to Twitter to offer his assessment of what Garc a had said. The 14 times major winner said I'm confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's long past time to move on and talk about golf.Link to video Rory McIlroy comments on Sergio Garc a's 'fried chicken' jibe
O'Grady made what will prove a futile attempt to place closure on the incident. He said Sergio expressed very deep and sincere regret for his unguarded and in his own words 'stupid' remark and we are also aware of his statement of apology issued at 12.25am this morning. Following our meeting we have accepted his full apology and we consider the matter closed. We are now looking forward to our flagship event starting tomorrow morning.
More ominous words for Garc a arrived from his main sponsor TaylorMade for whom the significance of what was said by their player has not apparently been lost. Zoeller lost sponsors as a direct consequence of his 1997 comments.
In a statement the golf equipment company said Sergio Garc a's recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade Adidas Golf's values and corporate culture. We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.
Garc a admitted he briefly considered withdrawing from this weekend's BMW PGA Championship. As soon as I left the dinner I started getting a sick feeling in my body he added. I wasn't able to sleep at all last on Tuesday night. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body and I have had this sick feeling all day. But unfortunately I said it. I wish I didn't do it but the only thing I can say is sorry.