By Larry Fine
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia began his U.S. Open week trying to dig himself out of a hole after earlier offending Tiger Woods and ended it wondering what might have been were it not for the 14th and 15th holes at Merion.
Garcia repeatedly apologized about an insensitive joke he had made a month ago about inviting longtime adversary Woods for fried chicken during the Open, striking a nerve with many who considered it an insensitive reference to a racial stereotype.
The Spaniard withstood heckling by fans, but could not overcome an astounding 16-stroke beating he absorbed on the two holes during the tournament.
Garcia shot a final-round 74 on Sunday to finish on 15-over 295. With the leaders dueling around the level-par mark, the Spaniard's struggles on those two par-fours cost him a chance at contending.
"You take that away and I played well," Garcia said.
Garcia went out of bounds twice as he double-bogeyed 14 and took a quadruple-bogey eight at 15 in the first round at the holes where a winding road snakes along the left edge.
In the third round, he bogeyed 14 and took a mind-boggling six-over-par 10 after hitting three tee balls out of bounds at 15.
On Sunday, Garcia triple-bogeyed 14 for the final carnage.
"First day I was a little bit unfortunate, I slipped on 14 and hit it out of bounds," recounted Garcia on Sunday. "And 15, I hit a bad shot and obviously had to hit it again.
"But yesterday I thought I hit two good drives to start with on 15, unfortunately they both went just out of bounds. And it's just the kind of holes that you have to be spot on.
"Today I didn't hit a big drive (at 14). I missed my fairway by probably four yards and I was in the hay. So it's just that kind of tournament."
As for the fans, Garcia showed patience and said the galleries were generally good natured as he declined an offer from police to have some heckling fans removed.
"For the most part they have been very good," he said. "Obviously there's a little group that are trying to be funny and stand out. And they shout a little bit louder than the rest."
Before he teed off for the third round, one fan shouted "Fried Chicken," and others made clucking sounds early in the round.
At the 18th, Garcia walked over to the gallery and spoke to a fan.
"Well, somebody shouted 'Did you make another eight?' And I just went over there and gave her my signed glove," he explained.
Asked if it had been a tough week for him, Garcia said: "What do you think? What do you think?"
(Editing by Gene Cherry)