Sergio Garcia has apologised for remarks aimed at Tiger Woods that sparked a racism controversy at the European Tour’s gala dinner in London on Tuesday night.
Asked when he would be inviting Woods round for dinner at the US Open next month, the Spaniard replied “he can come every night - we will serve fried chicken.”
The racist overtones caused a stir at the prestigious European Tour Player Awards and continued an ill-tempered transatlantic exchange with Woods following their latest fall-out at the Players Championship a fortnight ago.
"I apologise for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players' Awards dinner," Garcia said. "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."
Garcia followed Fuzzy Zoeller through the casual racism trap door, falling the wrong side of what is acceptable in banter. After Woods record victory at the 1997 Masters Zoeller said: “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
Like Garcia, Zoeller apologised, claiming his remarks had been misconstrued. But the stain lingers 15 years later.
Asked for his reaction to Garcia's comment on Twitter, Graeme McDowell wrote: "private/humor filled environment but he shouldn't have said it £slip," while Lee Westwood felt Woods would not be "particularly bothered" by it.
"It's an awkward situation where they obviously just don't get on," Westwood added. "It's in the public and you guys (the media) will stoke it up and you don't need to.
"I get on with both of them but I have no interest of getting in the middle of that relationship. It's nothing to do with me."