Garcia still has work to do

ARDMORE, Pa. -- On Tuesday afternoon at Merion, Sergio Garcia was confronted with a jolting question by a black journalist during his news conference at the U.S. Open.

The man sat on the front row directly in front of the 33-year-old Spaniard.

"Do you have an understanding that the comments you made regarding Tiger Woods extend beyond Tiger Woods, that they have a stinging feeling to people who look like me and other people who don't look like me that like you and support you and want you to do well out here?" the reporter asked. "I mean, it's not just about you and Tiger, this goes beyond, way beyond, that."

There has been much anticipation about when Tiger and Sergio would meet and whether they would iron out their differences.

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Sergio Garcia has been working on his game this week at Merion. He still has work to do off the course, as well.

Sergio needed to apologize. He needed to explain himself. On Tuesday, he said he left Tiger a handwritten note in his locker at Merion.

But to the reporter with the nervous voice, Tiger wasn't the only person who was owed an apology for the fried chicken comments. Through this whole affair that began in late May, the focus has been on what Sergio would do to heal the wounds with Tiger.

How would Sergio right this situation? Was it possible?

Perhaps Sergio didn't need a history lesson on race relations before the start of the U.S. Open, but the reporter's question was an important reminder that while Tiger was the focus of Garcia's comments, it wasn't Woods' burden to bear alone.

Millions of blacks know the fried chicken stereotype. They could wince and show little surprise that it had been trotted out again to put their group in an inferior light.

The reporter may have thought it was important that Sergio understand the broader perspective. That if he was reaching for some modicum of harmony with Tiger, he might also reach out to the entire community.

Sergio could at least understand that it was shortsighted to think that an apology to Tiger would free him of some of the anxiety that he had about his use of the old stereotype. To many, Tiger Woods doesn't have the power to unburden Sergio of this humiliation and strain on his career.

Though the question happened in less than a minute, it felt like the whole history of race relations in America had passed in those seconds.

Sergio spoke in a remorseful tone.

"I understand that," he said. "That's why I said 'sorry,' because I can obviously see that I hurt a lot of people. And that doesn't make me feel good. I can tell you that.

"I wish I could go back in time and take back what I said, but unfortunately, I said it. You know, the only thing I can do is show you my respect from here moving forward. I tried to be as respectful as possible competing and hopefully what I do will show you how much I care about everybody."

So Sergio apologized not to just Tiger, but to all the people most closely affected by the remarks.

Everybody wanted to know what he said to Tiger in the handwritten note. But that's personal. Nothing he said to Tiger could have been more important than the apology he gave to the reporter with the piercing stare.

On Tuesday, Sergio said that he hoped that he could overcome the stress of this incident to have a good week at Merion. But he didn't know what would happen.

"We'll see," he said. "The people have made me feel very good out there the last couple of days, so hopefully that will continue throughout the week and the only thing I can do is give my best effort and hopefully that would give me a chance.

"If not, we'll move on and we'll try to play well the week after."

If Sergio was being honest with the reporter who asked the question, he will move on not just as a golfer, but also as a person more committed and active about caring for everybody.

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