Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

US Open: Sergio Garcia leaves apology note in Tiger Woods' locker

ARDMORE, PA - JUNE 12:  (L-R) Tiger Woods of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk across a green during a practice round prior to the start of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 12, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ARDMORE, PA - JUNE 12: (L-R) Tiger Woods of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk across a green during a practice round prior to the start of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 12, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods is in possession of a letter from Sergio Garcia, left in his locker at Merion. Having tried to apologise in person for the racist insult delivered three weeks ago, Garcia was left with no option but to reach for pen and paper and scribble his regret.

The pair touched hands on the range on Monday, but there was no great dialogue and any idea that a more profound conversation might follow that evening had legs only in the imagination of romantics. The personal apology will not be coming because Woods will not allow it. By denying Garcia the thing he most desires, forgiveness, Woods has stamped his authority all over his bitter rival as well as the political agenda.

Woods says this particular matter is closed. He has dealt all his life with the kind of casual insult issued by Garcia and is not minded to make a special case of him simply because the Spaniard feels bad about his "fried chicken" remark. Garcia will have to live with that. "We didn't discuss anything," Woods said. "Just came up and said 'Hi', and that was it. We've already gone through it all. It's time for the US Open and we tee it up in two days."

So what was always a bitter rivalry is left to fester with Woods in absolute control of the moral high ground. Do not expect him to give up that perch any day soon. Garcia said: "I saw he was on the range. I felt like it wasn't the appropriate place out of respect to him and to the other players to do it there. So I was hoping to see him afterwards. Unfortunately, when I got done practising he was gone already, so I couldn't see him. And this morning he wasn't here.

"But I did leave him a note, a handwritten note. Hopefully, he can take a look at it. It's a big week and I understand that it's difficult to meet up and stuff. So, hopefully, I'll be able to do it [meet him], if not at least he has read the note and he's happy with that."

Few athletes in the history of sport have fed on the distress of others like Woods. It was tempting to see a question about the influence of golf's black trailblazers, Charlie Sifford and Calvin Peete, as a plant by the Woods back-room machine. It certainly came out of left field, but Woods gave it his full attention.

"Calvin and Charlie were leading the way for the likes of Lee Elder. It was a tough time for Charlie to go through what he went through, but he paved the way for a lot of us to be where we're at. I know my dad probably wouldn't have picked up the game if it wasn't for what Charlie did," Woods said. "I've always called him my grandpa, the grandpa I never really had. I've gotten to know him through the years and it's been fantastic. We owe a lot to him and all the pioneers that have paved the way for us to be here."

That "us" represents the African-American in sport, not just golf, and was a meaty slap in the face to the likes of Garcia, who blunder unthinking into the territory of race, a subject the white elites only ever encounter in the abstract.

A line has been drawn, if not the way the sport would have wanted. Woods moves powerfully towards his goal of the 15th major championship that he hopes might kick-start the pursuit of the fabled 18 snared by Jack Nicklaus. Garcia just hopes to get the rest of the week out of the way.

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