ARDMORE, Pa. – As Sergio Garcia stepped to his ball on the 11th tee at Merion Golf Club, to begin his third round of the U.S. Open, a scream rang out from the crowd.
"Fried chicken!" a fan yelled.
Later in his round, after Garcia missed a putt at the fifth, another fan yelled, "Popeyes!"
Thus is the fallout of Garcia's racist comment from last month when, during an awards banquet, he said he would serve Tiger Woods "fried chicken" for dinner.
"I would say I'm heckling him because of what he said," Tom Stanley, the fan who yelled 'Popeyes,' told Yahoo! Sports.
Several fans around him admonished Stanley, who concedes that Garcia is a "good guy overall," but "you gotta let him know," he said.
Whether or not you believe Garcia is genuinely remorseful for his ill-advised and racially insensitive joke about Woods, it's clear the negative attention has affected him.
"I've been very worried about the whole situation," Garcia said Tuesday. "I felt terrible about it."
This has been a difficult week for Garica, who entered Saturday's round at 6-over. He started Round 3 by bogeying two of his first three holes, 12 and 14, and then on his fourth – the unforgiving 15th – he drove his tee shot out of bounds. He re-teed and fired another drive out of play. And then, improbably, he did it a third time.
Garcia's score on that hole: 10.
Playing partner Rickie Fowler birdied, meaning he beat Garcia by seven strokes on a single hole. Garcia hit more tee shots on the 15th than Fowler hit shots.
While most fans remained silent as Sergio made his way around Merion, the few who were vocal were steadfast in their show of disapproval.
"We're 25 years old and grew up with Tiger," said Michael Toph. "You can't say that about Tiger."
A scattering of hecklers greeted Garcia throughout the first two days of play at Merion – he was booed by one fan while on the 11th tee on Friday – but Garica said fans have been pleasant for the most part. NBC reported that security offered to remove the hecklers, but Garcia said no.
"LIke I said on the first day, for the most part they've been very good," Garcia said after Saturday's round. "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. But the only thing I say is they're not very, how you say it, like the things they yell, they're very common. They're not very creative."
Was he still rattled by all that's happened lately? He admitted Tuesday he's been "nervous" about the reaction to his mistake – both on and off the course. He's skittish about the future of his TaylorMade sponsorship. And he does care what the fans think of him.
"I feel like I had a great relationship with the crowds for pretty much my whole career," Garcia said. "Obviously a couple incidents here and there, but other than that, I feel very fortunate. I feel like they love me. I love them too. I respect them very much."
It's been a week to forget for Garcia. The question now is whether crowds will let him.
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