US Open fan trouble brewing for Sergio Garcia after Tiger Woods jibe, says Colin Montgomerie
A career cast as Mrs Doubtfire by American galleries gives Colin Montgomerie some insight into what Sergio Garcia might expect at the US Open this week.
Garcia encounters an American audience for the first time since his racist gaffe aimed at Tiger Woods at Wentworth. Some half expected mischief-makers at Merion to group Garcia with Woods on Thursday. He was spared that trial but, according to Montgomerie, there could be a heap of trouble ahead.
"I think he's going to have a difficult time, of course he is. There might not be badges sent out, the way they were for me, but remember we're only a couple of hours from New York, and it's a lively crowd. I think he could well be booed, which would be most unfortunate, very sad for our game. You feel for him, but the trouble is that's you condoning [his remarks about Woods], so it's a very difficult situation to be in."
Montgomerie, teased mercilessly by crowds in the United States after being dubbed Mrs Doubtfire by pundit David Feherty, offered Garcia some consoling words during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. "I said 'Well done in making the cut,' and he said 'It's going to be difficult in America.' I said, 'I know it is, but you get on with it and play your golf.'
"The best thing Sergio can do is score 66 first day. It was a thing I tried to do and failed miserably at it, but at the same time that's the best thing he can do. To take on Tiger Woods in America you've got to beat him."
Before Garcia can tackle the golf bit he has to make the political running. Offers to speak to Woods by telephone to explain the "fried chicken" insult delivered in jest at a gala dinner in London were declined. Woods is adept at manipulating the agenda to suit his ends. He was on the wrong end of the morality tale at Sawgrass, where Garcia controlled the debate over golfing etiquette after Woods had disturbed him as he played a shot during their third-round pairing.
Woods was never going to let Garcia wriggle so quickly off the hook. After all there is a championship to win this week. By letting Garcia stew, he has made it almost impossible for him to challenge here, therefore removing from the equation a serious threat to his own ambitions. Woods has not won a major since the US Open in 2008. That's his focus.
Garcia had hoped to draw a line under the affair with a face-to-face meeting on his arrival here. Though the two shook hands briefly on the range yesterday, we shall discover today, when both are scheduled to address the media, whether a détente of sorts has been reached. After that Garcia has only the galleries to worry about.
"If something is expected you can almost plan for it," Montgomerie said. "At least he's prepared for it. If he can go out there and compete – and I mean top 10 – he'll do extremely well, given the scenes that might greet him."
Controversy over racism is not new to Woods. On Thursday he is grouped with Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Adam Scott, which, thanks to Garcia's contribution to Wentworth week, brings into sharper focus his broken relationship with Steve Williams, his former caddie. Williams, who now works for Scott, left his crass mark on the race issue two years ago in China when he referred to Woods in a casual aside as a "black asshole".
Woods managed that situation exactly as he has this, accepting the opportunity to take the moral high ground, which was emphatically denied him during the sex scandal that had engulfed him the previous year. Scott stuck by his man but could have done without the distraction.
When asked about the grouping with Woods, Scott – who was paired with Woods in the opening round at the scene of his last major win, Torrey Pines – ran a mile from the grim dynamic between his caddie and his principal rival for honours this week, talking only about the golf, an escape not available to Garcia. "It was an experience that I'll never forget," he said. "I've never seen that many people on a Thursday morning on the first tee."