Sergio Garcia struggled with hecklers and poor shotmaking on Thursday at the US Open, opening with a three-over par 73 and being chided by some spectators over a racism row involving Tiger Woods.
After Garcia’s comment last month that he would serve Woods “fried chicken” should they dine together, considered an insult by African-Americans, the Spaniard was taunted by a few spectators.
One clucked like a chicken when Garcia was near. Another yelled the Spanish words for fried chicken. Yet another was the lone boo during polite applause as Garcia was introduced ahead of his opening tee shot.
“There were a couple here and there, but I felt the people were very nice for the whole day,” Garcia said. “I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see.”
Garcia’s troubled round, getting himself into trouble and trying to get out, proved an apt metaphor for his off-the-course issues with Woods.
The 33-year-old Spaniard, still seeking his first major title, fired a double-bogey 6 at the 14th hole and a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 15th, but played the rest of Merion in three-under par, including an eagle at the par-5 second.
“Unfortunately two really bad holes, but that’s the way it is,” Garcia said. “The US Open doesn’t give you much room. At 14, I slipped and obviously out of bounds and then I hit a bad tee shot on the next and went out of bounds.
“I guess I was just making my week a little bit tougher, but I tried to battle as much as I could coming in and I was able to shoot a decent score after being 7-over through eight.”
Garcia responded with a birdie at the first, then eagled, and after a bogey at the par-5 fourth answered with birdies at the eighth and 10th, the latter being his last hole of the day due to Merion’s unorthodox layout.
“I was able to make a nice recovery, I guess, so that was nice, but obviously I put myself in a tough situation,” Garcia said of his round.
It was Garcia’s first round in a major since his comment last month before the BMW PGA Championship when Garcia attempted a joke over what to serve Woods, saying, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”
The fried chicken remark sparked a racism furore much the same way that Fuzzy Zoeller had in 1997 when he suggested Woods serve fried chicken at a Masters champions dinner.
Garcia has apologized publically for the mistake and left an apologetic note for Woods in the locker at the US Open after exchanging a brief handshake on the practice range Monday at Merion.
World number one Woods had tweeted in response to the “fried chicken” remarks: “The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate … it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.” -AFP