Sergio Garcia struggles in first round
There was at least one wiseguy waiting on more than a few of the holes. Despite that, Sergio Garcia’s charm offensive was mostly well received by the galleries during the opening round of the U.S. Open.
Some three weeks ago, in the midst of a hissing match with Tiger Woods, the Spaniard made a racially tinged remark about inviting his rival over for dinner and serving fried chicken. Widely criticized at the time, Garcia has apologized to Woods both privately and publicly. Yet there were some lingering questions about how he’d be received at Merion Golf Club this week by a sometimes-tough Philadelphia sports crowd.
“There were a couple here and there, but there was — I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that almost all of them were behind me,” Garcia said afterward, “and that was nice to see.”
The same unfortunately, couldn’t be said for Garcia’s golf game.
He shot a 3-over-par 73 Thursday, and that after recovering from a double-bogey, quadruple-bogey stumble at Nos. 14 and 15, where Garcia hooked both of his tee shots out of bounds.
“The U.S. Open doesn’t give you much room,” he said, then conceded the margin for error at 14 and 15 wasn’t his problem.
“The out of bounds is close, but if you hit a bad shot, even if it’s far away, you’re going to find it. ... I guess I was just making my week a little bit tougher,” he added. “But I tried to battle as much as I could coming in.”
Garcia teed off alongside Padraig Harrington and Stewart Cink amid cheers and a few scattered boos on the 11th hole at 7:44 a.m., and was cruising until the 14th. No sooner had his tee shot flown the coup at that hole than heavy rains came down and caused a 31/2-hour delay.
Garcia described his return this way: “Hit another 3-wood, 7-iron to about 16 feet and managed to two-putt for par.
“Sorry,” he added quickly, to some laughter. “Par with the second ball.”
The delay may have given the occasional hecklers around the course a chance to down a few beers and screw up their courage. As Garcia reached the first green, where he had an 8-footer for birdie, a fan holding a beer yelled, “Hey, head case! Let’s see you blow it 10 feet by.”
Instead, Garcia drained the putt for birdie, then made eagle at the par-5 second hole with a big drive, another 3-wood to 16 feet and made that putt as well. That left him at 4-over.
“But then I hit a couple of bad shots,” Garcia said. “So I don’t know. It was a pretty flat round for most of the day.”
As Garcia started down the No. 5 fairway, a fan lining the ropes yelled, “I ate the bones!” — the punch line from a new round of commercials for KFC, the fast-food chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.