ORLANDO, Fla. – Congratulations Sergio Garcia.
You’ve managed to accomplish the unthinkable: Turn Tiger Woods into a sympathetic figure.
Nothing trumps ignorance and/or racism, and you’re now on the podium, along with one of the all-time greats, Fuzzy Zoeller. Embrace the moment. It may be the only time you get the best of Mr. Woods.
Tiger now has his game and his groove back (see Lindsey Vonn).
Sergio just launched another triple-bogey into the water.
His reputation went “kerplunk.” Garcia reached into the racial stereotype stack of cards by jokingly answering a question about the possibility of getting together with Woods at the U.S. Open: “We’ll have him ’round every night,” he said. “We will serve fried chicken.”
Garcia immediately served a heavy dose of mea culpas on Wednesday, but he’s not going to win over many people. He went too far. And he’s old enough to know the drill on overstepping racial boundaries, as Zoeller did at the 1997 Masters.
And as someone from Spain who has likely been the brunt of a racial stereotype or joke, Garcia should know better.
“I want to send an unreserved apology. I did not want to offend anyone,” Garcia said Wednesday. “My answer was totally stupid and out of place.”
Is ignorance and stupidity an excuse?
In Sergio’s own words, you don’t have to be a “rocket engineer” to know that Garcia’s cheap shot is unacceptable.
What’s also inappropriate here is that Garcia has no business sniping at Woods. You don’t pick a food fight with somebody who just crushed you on the golf course after your infamous implosion on No. 17 at the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra.
Sergio turned into Aquaman on the famed 17th, while Tiger went about his business as the preeminent golfer in the world.
Garcia just solidified his reputation as a flighty, unpredictable guy who now has the infamous Scarlett letter – “R” – on his golf bag.
I’m still trying to wrap my arms around Tiger, the sympathetic figure in this sparring match. Here is a man who has showed little empathy for the masses, living his life – or pretending to anyway – in a perfectly controlled environment.
He was a Teflon Man until his vices got in the way. And kudos to him for finally getting his game and life together. We are a nation of second acts. But Tiger still remains Mr. Aloof, a guy who probably would prefer that all mere mortals genuflect in his presence.
I’d suggest that Garcia give that a try because Tiger is in his head, chirping away, 24-7. He clearly suffers from Tiger Envy. It’s been that way since August of 2000, when Sergio did an overly-zealous dance after beating Woods in an 18-hole, made-for-TV match called the Battle at Bighorn.
Since then, it’s been all about Tiger – the man with an elephant’s memory.
Garcia has been trampled underfoot.
“He called me a whiner. He’s probably right,” Garcia said Monday at Wentworth, England, the day before he strayed way out of bounds with his fried chicken jab. “But that’s also probably the first thing he’s told you guys that’s true in 15 years. I know what he’s like. You guys are finding out.”
Meooooow. There’s a lot to like here. Rivalries are great for a sport, especially one with such a stodgy reputation as golf.
Sniping is OK. Racist comments not so much.
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