Sergio García eager to move on from controversial Tiger Woods comments
‘I can’t apologise any more. I have apologised and reapologised, so I think it is all over’
Sergio García of Spain addresses the media during a press conference prior to the start of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, United Arab Emirates. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
It may be a new year but Sergio García is unable to escape old issues. García’s form in 2013 saw him move back to his rightful place among the top 10 golfers in the world. A serious controversy, namely his infamous “fried chicken” jibe towards Tiger Woods at a European Tour dinner, overshadowed that fine work.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi before his appearance at the HSBC Golf Championship, García reflected on last year’s troubles. Most specifically, he addressed the reaction of American golf fans when he appeared at the US Open in June. A small section of the Merion crowd subjected García to abuse.
“I don’t know if I was prepared for it,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t certain to know what was going to happen, more than anything at the US Open. It was my first week back there [in the United States]. And it was rough, it was difficult. Only by a minority, but they made themselves heard.
“But the good thing is the majority of the people knew me and what happened so they accepted my apologies and they could see that it was truthful. So that’s what helped me to keep going.
“You know, it wasn’t easy because I guess that minority are always the loudest and they made themselves heard. It’s never nice to be reminded of something that you don’t like and you don’t enjoy.
“I guess the only thing you can do is keep going, do what you love to do and try to show everybody what you are. Hopefully that’s good enough for them to like it.”
Asked whether he had spoken at length to Woods, as had not been the case at the time of the US Open, García said: “We have seen each other at tournaments, yes.”
On closer scrutiny regarding a direct apology to the world number one, he added: “I can’t apologise any more. I have apologised and reapologised, so I think it is all over.”
García insisted he can take something positive out of the Woods affair. It will be a small relief to the 34-year-old that this year’s Ryder Cup meeting with the United States, in which he is almost certain to play a part, will take place in Europe.
“It was probably a tough three months at least,” the Spaniard said, “but it was a good learning experience. I thought that we learned a lot from it and I think that it made us even stronger. It has been nice to play a little bit, maybe not think so much about it and then just get your game in shape, your head in the right way.”
García closed 2013 with victory in the Thailand Golf Championship. Earlier, he had criticised the schedule of the European Tour’s inaugural Final Series and controversially opted not to attempt to qualify for its last event in Dubai.
“I did talk to George (O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive) and Keith (Waters, the tour’s chief operating officer) and the rest of the group,” García said. “We tried to figure out the best way possible. I think they realised that for players like me that play on both tours, it’s difficult to put ourselves under so much pressure of playing a lot of tournaments in a row. Our season is so compact in the United States that we play a lot of tournaments and, for me, that’s what happened last year.
“I played eight out of nine weeks, or eight out of 10, during the summer and it was just a lot of golf. I needed to rest a little bit and that was towards the end of the year when I wanted to take a couple of breaks. I wanted to play in Dubai but for me to qualify for it, I needed to play pretty much six out of seven weeks.
“So it was just too much for me, thinking not about last year but thinking about this season and how I would start it. It was disappointing. I would have loved to be in Dubai and play there, but it’s one of those things that happened. I’m sure that we will fix it, that we can all move forward and do the right things.”