x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

European Tour CEO adds to golfer Garcia's race row with faux pas

Chief executive George O'Grady uses inappropriate word himself trying to defend Garcia of racism.

Sergio Garcia, centre, emerges from a meeting with George O'Grady, left, after which the latter was criticised for not taking any action on the golfer for his comments on fellow player Tiger Woods. Andrew Redington / Getty Images
Sergio Garcia, centre, emerges from a meeting with George O'Grady, left, after which the latter was criticised for not taking any action on the golfer for his comments on fellow player Tiger Woods. Andrew Redington / Getty Images

Adding more fuel to a combustible situation, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady yesterday was forced to issue an apology for using the word "coloured" when defending the decision not to sanction Sergio Garcia for a controversial remark about Tiger Woods.

On Wednesday, Garcia apologised for making a bad joke about world No 1 Woods at the tour's annual dinner on Tuesday night, which was roundly considered to be racist.

Garcia was asked by the dinner host if he would invite Woods to dinner during the upcoming US Open to settle their differences, which resurfaced at the Players Championship this month.

"We will have him round every night," Garcia said. "We will serve fried chicken."

The European Tour had been widely criticised for accepting Garcia's apology without sanction and deeming the matter "closed," but O'Grady has now been forced to apologise for remarks made before TV cameras.

"I deeply regret using an inappropriate word in a live interview for Sky Sports for which I unreservedly apologise," a statement from O'Grady read.

Speaking to Sky Sports 1 about not disciplining Garcia, O'Grady said: "There's absolutely no cosiness about this at all. We take this very seriously, as does he.

"He's convinced us just how seriously he takes it and that's why we've had to draw a line under this thing.

"Any hint of this feeling has no place on the European Tour. All races play on the European Tour and that's how we're going to keep it. That's how we want to be.

"Most of Sergio's friends happen to be coloured athletes in the United States, he is absolutely abject in his apology, and we accepted it."

In December 2011, BBC analyst Alan Hansen issued an apology for twice using the word "coloured" to describe black footballers when discussing the John Terry and Luis Suarez racism cases.

Garcia was cheered as he started his first round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday.

Garcia initially issued an apology for what he called a "silly remark" and said he wanted to speak directly to Woods, who clearly was not laughing when he wrote on Twitter: "The comment that was made wasn't silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.

"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."

It remains to be seen how much the gaffe will cost the Ryder Cup star financially, with a statement from Garcia's major sponsors TaylorMade-adidas yesterday reading: "Sergio Garcia's recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-adidas Golf's values and corporate culture.

"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."

In a rain-delayed first round at Wentworth, South Africa's James Kingston took the early lead with a 6-under 66.