Column: Garcia can't stop apologizing to Tiger
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (AP)
A handshake on the driving range. A handwritten note left quietly in his locker.
There's still time, of course, since the two erstwhile rivals don't tee off until Thursday in the U.S. Open at muddy Merion Golf Club. On second thought, maybe a nice bouquet of flowers tucked inside one of those wicker baskets they use for flags here might work better.
C'mon. What's a fellow got to do to prove he's sorry?
''You know, it's a big week and I understand that it's difficult to meet up and stuff,'' Garcia said.
Can't be that hard. Woods himself mentioned he had dinner plans Wednesday night with his niece, Cheyenne. Maybe Garcia could at least get in a few words over dessert.
Or maybe he should just forget the whole thing and do what Woods himself said he had done - consider the matter closed.
Whether Woods actually meant that will be debated in the locker room as much as what Garcia meant last month when he said he would have Woods over for dinner during the Open and serve him fried chicken every night.
Woods let Fuzzy Zoeller twist in the wind for years after he made a similar comment at the Masters. No reason to think Garcia will fare any better.
That's probably why the Spaniard looked like someone had stolen his favorite putter when he met with the media Tuesday, knowing that most of the questions would have nothing to do with historic Merion or Garcia's chances of finally winning a major in this Open.
He talked about moving forward and being forgiven. Said he made dumb mistakes but was trying to learn from them. Talked even more about moving forward and being forgiven.
If it weren't for somebody asking about Ben Hogan and the great 1-iron he hit to the 18th green here at the 1950 U.S. Open, he'd still be talking about moving forward and being forgiven.
''I wish I could go back in time and take back what I said, but unfortunately, I said it,'' Garcia said. ''You know, the only thing I can do is show you my respect from here moving forward.''
Unfortunately for Garcia, Woods doesn't forget easily. He tends to forgive even less.
After 14 years of chasing after Woods on the golf course, Garcia must chase him just to offer an apology. He seems to have about as much chance of success as he does winning a major of his own.
''It's already done,'' Woods said, dismissing Garcia as easily as he does most autograph seekers. ''We've already gone through it all. It's time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days.''
On a day when spectators sloshed through the mud to watch practice rounds and players fretted about mud balls deciding this Open, the lingering effects of the Woods-Garcia dustup did do one thing. It drew some of the spotlight from the decision by the U.S. Golf Association to return the Open to Merion, an old and short course that could be easy pickings for the best players in the world.
Heavy rain over the last few days have softened the course so much that it will change how it plays, and not for the better. The course where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930 and Hogan won 20 years later had to play fast to challenge today's players, who will now be able to take dead aim at the quaint basket-pins and make lots of birdies.
It's also the same course where Lee Trevino threw a rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus before their 1971 playoff, so there is some history of player confrontations, even if that one was in jest.
Asked Tuesday what happened to the snake, Trevino said:
''It died. It's been 42 years ago. No snakes live 42 years.''
Garcia wants desperately for this to die, too, before his sponsors desert him and his game does the same. This had shaped up as a promising year for Garcia to rebound from several years of poor play until he imploded while battling Woods for the title at The Players Championship a month ago.
Garcia implied in a TV interview that Woods made the crowd cheer during his backswing, and later upped the ante with more criticism of Woods.
''He called me a whiner. That's probably right,'' Garcia said then. ''It's also probably the first thing he's told you guys that's true in 15 years.''
It was all good stuff, if not good fun. But then Garcia crossed the line with a comment in London about fried chicken that reminded everyone that golf still struggles with issues of race and class.
The line was about as flip as it was dumb; as insensitive as it was unfunny. Garcia said he immediately felt sick to his stomach and wasted little time in issuing a public apology to Woods.
He's still at it, getting as far as a handshake on the range Monday before deciding it wasn't the proper place to make amends. He followed with a note left in Woods' locker Tuesday, and repeated his mea culpa for the better part of a half hour before the media.
He's not going to win this Open and may never win an Open.
For now, though, he's the undisputed clubhouse leader in attempted apologies.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg