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Tour chief's 'coloured' remark intensifies Garcia row

SERGIO GARCIA stirred the spectre of racism in golf with his stunning "fried chicken" jibe at Tiger Woods this week, but the issue exploded into a full-blown crisis after another astonishing 'slip of the tongue', this time by European Tour chief executive George O'Grady (right) in a TV interview.

Under intense pressure for failing to take punitive action against Garcia for his slur on Woods during the Tour's annual awards banquet in London, yesterday's attempt by O'Grady to defuse the situation blew up in his face.

Instead of mitigating Garcia's behaviour, O'Grady added weight to widespread belief that elements within the sport of golf are racially insensitive by describing many of the Spaniard's friends as "coloured athletes".

O'Grady, clearly remorseful, then issued a statement saying: "I deeply regret using an inappropriate word in a live interview, for which I unreservedly apologise."

On Tuesday evening, Garcia (33), joked he'd ask Woods for dinner at the upcoming US Open to settle a recent spat, adding he'd serve him fried chicken, which is stereotypically associated with black people in the America's deep south.

He apologised profusely for his comment about the world No 1, who described the remark as "wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate".

O'Grady, photographed alongside Garcia after the initial controversy broke, was forced to defend his organisation's decision to take no further action against the player, which appeared, at least in part, to condone the Spaniard's behaviour.

"There's absolutely no cosiness about this at all," he said. "We take this very seriously, as does he. He's convinced us just how seriously he takes it and that's why we've had to draw a line under this thing. All races play on the European Tour and that's how we're going to keep it."

Despite widespread suggestions that Garcia should have been sent home from this week's BMW PGA Championship after sparking the biggest racial controversy in European Tour history, he was playing in the first round at Wentworth when O'Grady's remarks were broadcast.

"I didn't hear them. I mean, I've been told about it," he said after signing for a level-par 72. "But you know, I think it's unfortunate."

Garcia, who drew a huge roar when he eagled 18, was briefed by a Tour media official before he spoke to the press. It's particularly unfortunate for the image of golf that O'Grady wasn't as well rehearsed for his TV interview.

Irish Independent