• US Open

Garcia gets crowd backing in final practice round

Alex Dimond at Merion June 12, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Sergio Garcia got a positive reception at Merion on Wednesday © Getty Images
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Sergio Garcia received a warm reception from spectators at Merion on Wednesday, as he completed his final preparations for this week's US Open.

Garcia, 33, has been at the centre of a media storm in recent weeks - after making an ill-judged comment about Tiger Woods at an awards dinner in England last month, a "fried chicken" jibe that many believed contained racial undertones.

There had been fears that Garcia would receive a hostile reception from the crowds on Merion's East Course. The club is about 10 miles west of Philadelphia, a city whose sports fans are known to eagerly hand out abuse to stars that have courted controversy.

But on Wednesday Garcia was regularly cheered by the crowds, as he completed a final practice round alongside Matteo Manassero and Ted Potter Jr.

With police officers occasionally in attendance - as they are with almost every group out on the course this week - Garcia interacted frequently with the galleries, signing autographs at relevant junctures and acknowledging the shouts of support that were frequently made.

"The people have that made me feel very good out there, the last couple of days," Garcia said in his pre-tournament press conference earlier in the week. "So hopefully that will continue throughout the week."

The 2012 Ryder Cup team member had previously acknowledged that he had a lot of work to do in order to rebuild his standing within golf.

"I wish I could go back in time and take back what I said, but unfortunately, I said it," Garcia noted. "The only thing I can do is show you my respect from here moving forward. I tried to be as respectful as possible competing and hopefully what I do will show you how much I care about everybody."

Garcia's Wednesday practice round was notable for another reason, as he was one of the first players to strike Merion's unique wicker baskets with an approach shot. It came at the 115-yard par-three 13th, with Garcia's shot ricocheting away from the pin.

The USGA posted about the shot on Twitter, with a volunteer this week subsequently suggesting that Ryan Palmer had achieved something similar on Tuesday.

Players must play their ball from where it comes to rest if it clatters off a wicker basket, regardless of if the collision takes the ball away from the hole.

In the unlikely event a ball comes to rest in or on the wicker basket, players will take a free drop at the nearest point of the relief (not in the hole) - effectively handing them a tap-in putt.

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Alex Dimond is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk