Connect to share and comment
Sergio Garcia received a warm welcome from US Open spectators on Thursday despite his recent racist remark toward Tiger Woods, but US star Phil Mickelson was the clear fan favorite.
Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation for toughness across the United States, notoriously having booed Santa Claus at an American football game, and their reaction to the Spaniard after his "fried chicken" remark was uncertain.
But when Garcia was introduced to start his opening round at Merion in the 113th US Open, there was only one lone, loud, clear boo to be heard amid polite applause from hundreds of spectators.
Garcia arrived at the 11th tee, used as a starting spot due to course logistics at the 6,996-yard layout, alongside 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink, both men greeted warmly ahead of a 7:44 a.m. start.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington received a louder ovation upon his arrival and Garcia quietly made some final practice swings, two policemen behind nearby pine trees to the right of the tee a noticable sign of extra security.
After the trio teed off and began walking down the first fairway, the fans yelled some words of encouragement to Garica, "Go Sergio" and "Go get 'em Sergio."
The 11th tee area, which features a large rock with the plaque honoring Bobby Jones for his 1930 US Amateur victory that completed a sweep of that year's US and British Opens and Amateurs, also saw the crowd produce yells of "Kooch" for Matt Kuchar and "Oooost" for South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen.
A simmering dispute between Woods and Garcia took a cruder tone last month before the BMW PGA Championship when Garcia attempted a joke about what he might serve Woods should they have dinner together.
"We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken," Garcia said.
The reference to fried chicken, seen as an insult to African-Americans, sparked a racism furore much the same way that Fuzzy Zoeller had in 1997 when he suggested Woods serve fried chicken at a Masters champions dinner.
Garcia has apologized publically for the mistake and left an apologetic note for Woods in the locker at the US Open after exchanging a brief handshake on the practice range Monday at Merion.
World number one Woods had tweeted in response to the "fried chicken" remarks: "The comment that was made wasn't silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate ... it's long past time to move on and talk about golf."
Woods, scheduled to begin his quest for a record-tying fourth US Open title and 15th major crown in the afternoon, said again on Tuesday that it was time to move on and put the comment in the past.
Hundreds were waiting in line for the grandstand at the 11th tee to open at 7 in the morning for the first group were wondering if Mickelson, a five-time US Open runner-up, would arrive on time.
Mickelson flew home Monday to Southern California to attend his daughter Amanda's eighth-grade graduation ceremony and caught an overnight flight across the nation back to Merion in time to make it to the tee for his 7:11 start.
"Your week Phil" and "You made it" were among the yells of encouragement for the black-clad US left-hander who turns 43 on Sunday under overcast skies.