VIRGINIA WATER, UK – The head of the European golf tour has apologized for using the term “colored” during a live television interview. European Tour CEO George O’Grady said Thursday that “most of Sergio’s friends are colored athletes in the United States.” He was reacting to a very public spat between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
Now, Sergio Garcia could lose a lucrative sponsorship deal after his “fried chicken” jibe directed at golf’s World No.1 Tiger Woods.
Garcia apologized Wednesday for his off the cuff remarks at an official dinner, but the Spaniard’s equipment and clothing sponsor TaylorMade-adidas has gone public with its displeasure over the remarks.
“Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture,” said a statement released by the company.
Its long standing backing of former World No.2 Garcia stretches back to 2002 but appears to have been placed under strain over the controversy.
“We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere.
“We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter,” it concluded.
There was more embarrassment for golf Thursday afternoon when European Tour chief executive George O’Grady issued an apology for using the word “colored” during an interview defending Garcia.
O’Grady claimed that many of Garcia’s friends were “colored athletes” and has since apologized.
He said: “I deeply regret using an inappropriate word in a live interview for Sky Sports, for which I unreservedly apologize.”
Garcia, who finished with a level par 72 in his first round of the European Tour’s flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth Thursday, was clad from head to foot in the products of his biggest sponsor.
But he has admitted that the racist row which exploded after his comments had left him severely distracted.
“It was tough to hit a shot (in the pro-am) without thinking about it,” the 33-year-old told gathered reporters.
Garcia has had an uneasy relationship with Woods for a number of years and it deteriorated to an all- time low after the Tour’s annual dinner Tuesday night.
Answering questions from the media, he was asked if he would invite his American rival to dinner at next month’s U.S. Open.
Garcia quipped he would have him round every night and serve fried chicken, a remark associated with racial stereo typing when used in reference to African Americans.
Woods responded on his twitter account, saying the comments were “hurtful and inappropriate” but later tried to diffuse the row.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made.
“The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
Woods, who won the Players Championship, was involved in a spat with Garcia after the third round at Sawgrass — where they were paired together.
Garcia claimed he was disturbed by Woods as he hit a shot and later admitted his relationship with the 14-time major winner was strained. “You can’t like everyone,” he said.
The saga echoes a 1997 incident after Woods won his first U.S. Masters title.
Former Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller was asked what choice Woods might make at the major’s annual dinner the following year — as would be his right as the holder.
“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.”
Zoeller’s reputation took a battering in the row that followed and despite issuing an apology, which Woods accepted, he also later shed a key sponsorship deal with K-Mart.
On the course, South Africa’s James Kingston ended the first day at the top of the leaderboard after carding a six-under 66.
Kingston, who lost his card last season, hit four birdies in his final seven holes.
“You are not automatically invited into most of these events, so it’s tough to plan your schedule,” he told reporters after carving out a one-shot lead over Finland’s Mikko Ilonen.
“It takes one good week and things change, so I am hoping to make the best of this week.
World No.2 Rory McIlroy endured a disappointing day, finishing the day on two-over par following his round of 74.
He told reporters: “It was tricky. The conditions obviously were not ideal, so it is tough to shoot a low score out there. I felt I was doing well after the first 12 holes but I just let the round get away from me.
“In the first 12 holes I didn’t really miss a shot, but I am not getting as much out of my rounds as I should do.”
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.