The nearly 15-year squabble between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia has reached a new level of cattiness in recent weeks. But now, for the first time, the 33-year-old Spaniard Garcia is apologizing to Woods after crossing the line with an off-color remark about his arch nemesis.
Garcia’s indelicate remark took center stage at an event Tuesday evening in advance of this week’s BMW PGA Championship in England. At the awards dinner, Garcia’s trademark bravado turned ugly when he reportedly made a racist joke about his most despised adversary.
According to The Guardian, the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands jokingly asked Garcia on stage if he’d be having Woods over for dinner before the U.S. Open in June, to which Garcia replied: “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken."
The comment is being cast as Garcia’s “Fuzzy Zoeller moment.” In 1997, Zoeller referred to a then-21-year-old Woods as “little boy” during an interview and also made a joke referencing fried chicken and collard greens.
By the end of the night Tuesday, Garcia had released a statement through the European Tour apologizing for the comment.
“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during The European Tour Players’ Awards dinner,” it read. “I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner."
Tiger addressed the comment on Wednesday morning, taking the high road and doing his best to defuse the situation.
The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate…
For his part, Garcia appeared contrite Wednesday at a hastily called press conference.
”I want to send an unreserved apology. I did not want to offend anyone,” Garcia said. ”My answer was totally stupid and out of place.”
”I want to also apologize to my Ryder Cup teammates who were there last night for taking the shine away from a wonderful event, and finally and foremost, I want to apologize to Tiger to anyone I could have offended. I felt very sick about it and feel really bad, and just hope to settle things down and move on.”
Tuesday’s remarks were actually the second act of Garcia’s latest smack attack on Woods. Act 1 came Monday, when Garcia slammed Woods during a news conference.
Clearly still stinging after his collapse at The Players’ Championship, Garcia took umbrage with Woods’ comments earlier Monday, when the world No. 1 curtly said he hadn’t given any thought to making amends with Garcia since the pair’s dust-up during the third round at TPC Sawgrass.
“He called me a whiner. That’s probably right,” Garcia told reporters. “It’s also probably the first thing he’s told you guys that’s true in 15 years. I know what he is like. You guys are finding out.”
When asked about possibly taking the initiative to reach out and extend the olive branch to Tiger, Garcia let reporters know how he really felt about his longtime rival.
"First of all, I don’t have his number, and secondly, I did nothing wrong and don’t have anything to say to him,” Garcia said, according to Golf.com. “And he wouldn’t pick up the phone anyway. But that’s OK; I don’t need him as a friend. I don’t need him in my life to be happy and that’s fine. It’s as simple as that.
“Like I have always said, I try to be as truthful as possible. That’s why I think sometimes most of the people love me and some hate me. I understand that, but I’m not going to change. That’s what makes me who I am, and that’s what makes me happy. And that’s what makes the people I care about happy because they know they can trust me.
“Tiger doesn’t make a difference to my life. And I know that I don’t make a difference to his life.”
This latest round of beef between Garcia and Woods may be the most recent and, perhaps, the most unsavory, but it’s hardly the first. These two guys have a discourteous history that goes back more than a decade. Here’s a timeline of how the whole feud has played out:
1999 PGA Championship
By most accounts, the career-long difference of opinion dates back to this August 1999 tournament at Medinah. Garcia, then 19, gave Woods, 23, all he could handle, but during the final round, he tweaked Tiger, who was playing in the group behind him, when he glared back at Woods after sinking a birdie putt on the par-3 13th. Woods would go on to win the tournament, securing the second of his 14 major titles as he held off Garcia by one stroke — Garcia, it should be noted, still has not won a major, though he would become known, of course, for this epic second shot on 16:
2000 Battle at Bighorn
Round 2 in the Woods-Garcia slap fight came the following summer, at a made-for-TV match called the Battle at Bighorn. Playing for a $1.1 million prize, Garcia beat Woods, who played with the flu, by a stroke.
But it wasn’t the victory that got Tiger’s goat — at this point, Woods had won four of five majors, while Garcia was ranked 15th in the world — but rather, it was Garcia’s animated nature throughout the round and his reveling of the victory afterward, as he "celebrated as if he had won the California lottery.” That incident officially put Garcia on Woods’ naughty list, and he’s been stuck there ever since.
2002 US Open
Sergio didn’t do anything to shake his growing reputation as a whiner at this major tournament. After a soggy second round, which saw Garcia shoot 74 to Tiger’s 68, Garcia complained that the round should have been halted because of rain and that “if Tiger Woods would have been out there, it would have been called.” In an unexpected twist, Woods and Garcia ended up being in the final pairing at Bethpage Black that year, though Woods had a comfortable four-stroke lead heading into Sunday. Woods shot 72 to win the tournament at 3 under, while Garcia posted another 74 and finished in fourth at 3 over. The major championship tally at that point? Tiger, 8 — Sergio, 0.
2006 British Open
Garcia entered the final round of the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool just one shot back of Woods. He also, unfortunately, entered dressed head to toe in canary yellow. Woods proceeded to shoot 67 on Sunday, while Garcia shot 73 and faded from contention. Afterward, Woods reportedly texted a friend to say that he had “just bludgeoned Tweety Bird.” It wasn’t necessarily nice, but, to be fair, he had a point:
2006 Ryder Cup
Garcia’s stroke-play history hadn’t given him much reason to keep mouthing off at Woods, but at least at an event like the Ryder Cup, he had room to brag. Before the 2006 event at the K Club in Ireland, Garcia remarked that, “Fortunately for us, [Woods] doesn’t have a great Ryder Cup record, so I’m looking forward to hopefully going out there and meeting him two or three times.” Garcia and Woods ended up meeting once during the three-day event, with Garcia and Luke Donald scoring a 2-up victory over Woods and Jim Furyk as Europe won the event 18 1/2 to 9 1/2.
2013 Players Championship
The relationship between Woods and Garcia had been mostly tame until earlier this month, at TPC Sawgrass. Things took a juvenile turn in the third round, when Garcia blamed Woods for a bad shot on the par-5 second hole.
Garcia had been leading at the time, and he was tied with Woods for the lead at 11 under after three rounds. The spat between the two over Saturday’s incident continued through the night and into Sunday morning. Then, a disastrous 17th hole on Sunday dropped Garcia out of contention, costing him a chance at a very satisfying victory — not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the days since Garcia’s meltdown and finger-pointing at Woods, the story has done anything but go away. First, two marshals accused Woods of lying about the events that led to the third-round bickering, and then two other marshals came to Woods’ defense.
Now, we’ve got Woods and Garcia still trading barbs nearly two weeks later.
If nothing else, it’s keeping things interesting — always good for golf — and if 14 years of history between Woods and Garcia is any indication, things between them won’t be dying down anytime soon.
“This is not just one thing; this has been going on for a long time,” Garcia said. “It’s happened in other tournaments. The problem is, I’m one of the guys that has to say something. A lot of people think about it, but don’t want to say anything. He can and will beat me a lot of times, but (he) is not going to step on me. I’m not afraid of him."
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.