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Tiger brands Garcia remark 'hurtful and inappropriate'

ESPN staff
May 22, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Tiger Woods has branded remarks Sergio Garcia made about him "clearly inappropriate", adding that they were both wrong and hurtful.

Garcia, meanwhile, has offered an unreserved apology for his comment - but strenously denied it was of a racist nature.

At a European Tour awards dinner on Tuesday evening, Garcia made a comment about inviting Woods around for "fried chicken" - comments that have been construed in many quarters to contain racial undertones.

The pair had been involved in an unseemly war of words for more than a week, but Garcia's jibe strayed into offensive territory.

"The comment that was made wasn't silly," Woods said on Twitter. "It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate."

The world No. 1, while stopping short of fully accepting Garcia's apology, expressed his belief that the European genuinely regretted uttering the remarks.

He added: "I'm confident that there is real regret that the remark was made."

A long-running dislike between the two players escalated at the recent Players Championship, when the two men were paired together in the third round at TPC Sawgrass. An incident on the second hole saw Garcia accuse Woods of a "lack of respect", sparking a tit-for-tat war of words in the media that culminated in Garcia's explosive comments at an awards dinner in London.

On Wednesday Garcia took the unusual step of holding a second press conference - he had originally spoken to media about this week's PGA Championship on Tuesday - to apologise once again to Woods, although he refuted suggestions of racist intent.

How the Garcia-Woods feud escalated

Sergio Garcia is in hot water © Getty Images

"I want to issue an unreserved apology, I did not mean to offend anyone," Garcia said. "I understand that my answer was totally stupid and out of place. I can't say sorry enough about that.

"I've called Mark Steinberg, his manager and left him a message saying I was very sorry and that I would like to talk to them as soon as possible to tell them how sorry I am. I know it was a bad comment that shouldn't have been said.

"I hope to apologise to him face-to-face and move forward."

When asked if he accepted that his comment was racist, he added: "No, no - It was not meant that way. I was caught off-guard by what seemed to be a funny question and tried to give a funny answer which came out totally wrong."

Woods has been the subject of dubious remarks before, with Fuzzy Zoeller met with widespread condemnation after making a reference to fried chicken and collared greens after Woods became the first black golfer to win the Masters in 1997.

Garcia denied being aware of the Zoeller incident prior to his comment on Tuesday - noting that he was just 17 years old at the time.

Then, in 2011, Woods' former caddie Steve Williams had to explain himself after saying he wanted to "shove it right up that black a***hole" after parting company with the 14-major champion. On that occasion, Woods said he had "no doubts" the New Zealander was not a racist.

"It was a wrong thing to say. We're moving forward. It was hurtful certainly, but life goes forward," Woods added. "It is a comment that shouldn't have been made and he certainly wishes he didn't make it."

Nearly two years on, Woods believes the current dispute with Garcia should be ended - and that discussions should return to purely sporting matters.

"The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's long past time to move on and talk about golf," he noted.

Garcia, who has spoken to European Tour chiefs and does not expect to face disciplinary action, revealed that he had considered withdrawing from this week's event due to his comments, but decided against that option.

"If you ask me [about withdrawing] this morning, I might have," he said. "My mind is not in the greatest place at the moment but I feel like the tournament deserves to have me.

"The tournament has nothing to do with this, it is all on me, and I want to go out and give all I have."

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