Garcia's 'fried chicken' remark shows disdain for Woods

By Joe PosnanskiMay 22, 2013, 12:53 pm

You know, it really doesn’t seem possible that someone else made a fried chicken joke about Tiger Woods. When Fuzzy Zoeller made his fried chicken joke about Tiger Woods in 1997 and got in all sorts of trouble for it – loss of sponsors, loss of popularity, a permanent “controversies” section on Wikipedia – well, there wasn’t much good to come from it but you probably would have bet the house that at least nobody would ever make another friend chicken joke about Woods.

And then: Sergio. Oh, Sergio.

Here, for your teeth-gnashing discomfort, was Fuzzy’s quote about Woods during Tiger’s historical run at the 1997 Masters: “That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? … Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Yeah, after that, you might have thought people wouldn’t even put Tiger Woods in a sentence with either “Fried” or “chicken.”

And then: Sergio. Oh, Sergio.

When Golf Channel’s Steve Sands asked Sergio Garcia at the European Tour Players’ Awards Dinner if he would invite Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open – you know, a little joke, Sergio and Tiger have been feuding and all that – Garcia reportedly said: “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”

Sergio. Oh, Sergio.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” either Fuzzy or Sergio wrote in his apology statement.

“I answered a question that was clearly made toward me as a joke with a silly remark,” Sergio or Fuzzy said.

“Anybody who knows me knows I’m a jokester,” said one of the statements.

“In no way was the comment meant in a racist manner,” said the other statement.

“It had nothing to do with black, white, purple, yellow, green race,” said one.

“I apologize for any offence,” said the other – wait, that had to be Sergio’s because of the way he spelled “offence.”

“I’m sorry if I offended anybody,” said, well, wait, I think that’s from Fuzzy’s statement.

Whatever. Garcia made an off-color remark in his second language when he was trying to be funny in front of a lot of people. Misunderstandings happen all the time. There’s no reason to doubt him when he says that he did not mean it in a racist way.  After all, Garcia has basically called Woods a liar, a phony and a jerk, and he isn’t apologizing for any of those things.

What’s striking is just how deep Woods is in Garcia’s head. For more than a week now – ever since the moment Woods pulled a club just as Sergio was in his backswing at The Players Championship – Garcia has been looking for words that will cut Woods. He pulled out that “he’s not the nicest guy on tour” line at one point. Didn’t really leave a mark. He tried several workarounds on the word “liar.” Didn’t lay a glove on him. Then, he offered probably my favorite Sergio soliloquy, which has been quoted many different ways in the European papers:

“He called me a whiner. He’s probably right. But that’s also probably the first thing he’s told you guys (in the media) that’s true in 15 years. I know what he’s like. You guys are finding out.”

That was a pretty good attempt – especially the part where he conceded being a whiner – but I’m sure it too had no impact on Woods, and it’s obvious why: Woods has won 14 major championships. Garcia has won none. Woods is the greatest golfer of his time and perhaps all time. Garcia’s career is widely viewed as an underachievement. Woods put his shot on the green at 17 with the tournament on the line. Garcia hit two in the water.

What could Garcia possibly say that would touch Woods?

It’s cruel … but it’s true. Woods has left behind a lost generation of good golfers. How good, historically, is Phil Mickelson? Ernie Els? Vijay Singh? Garcia? Could they have been the dominant player in the world in a different time? Sham was a great 3-year-old racehorse … but who remembers the horse that finished second to Secretariat? Ezzard Charles was a great boxer – but who remembers the boxer who couldn’t beat Rocky Marciano?

Garcia, in that moment on stage when he was obviously expected to say something funny about Tiger, undoubtedly reached for something edgy. He went over that edge, into a muddy puddle that Zoeller stepped into 16 years ago. Man, nobody ever thought that someone would step in that puddle again.

Sergio quickly apologized. Does that end things? Doubtful. Now people will ask Woods if he accepts the apology. He issued a Twitter response Wednesday. But he'll be asked again, and I suspect Woods’ answer will be similar to the one-word answer he gave when asked if he called to make up with Garcia: “No.”

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”