Monday, May 27, 2013


“We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken”. These dozen words have rocked the febrile world of golf to its proverbial foundations. Can you credit it?

Here’s how they came to be said. Every year, the European Tour (the organisation that manages those events in Europe at which the professionals play) hosts a dinner for players and officials. That this year’s dinner was held at Heathrow suggests that it is not the most elegant event in the social calendar.

Evidently there are speeches and rather less formal shenanigans at these dinners. For aught I know, they have fire-eating and pole-dancers. At any rate, the golfer Sergio Garcia had the mic this year and someone asked whether he would invite Tiger Woods over for a meal during the forthcoming US Open. The subtext to this question was not wholly without mischief because it is no secret that Garcia and Woods are not exactly bosom buddies.

A contrite Señor Garcia

Garcia’s off-the-cuff answer brought a hushed horror to the crowd. People rose from their half-eaten sorbets and left the room in search of smelling salts and brandy. For the next 24 hours, all flights due to land at Heathrow were diverted to Stansted. Tiger Woods is secluded at an exclusive retreat in Beverly Hills where profound shocks are given state-of-the-art treatment. Garcia has been banned from all professional and amateur golf courses for the rest of his life and has been obliged to take up crown-green bowls. The Queen has been informed.

Here’s what my statement would be if I were Garcia. “I love fried chicken. I cook it every week and everyone says mine is the best. Whenever I have a particularly favoured guest, I serve fried chicken. I am told that fried chicken is eaten by black people in the United States. I can tell you that it is also eaten by white people in the States. It is eaten by Europeans in Europe, by Asian people in Asia and by Africans and South Americans in, respectively, Africa and South America. It is nowhere an unusual dish, save perhaps in the Arctic and the Antarctic, where chickens are more difficult to keep.

Fried chicken: this is a Thai version

“At the dinner, I did not mention the fact that Tiger Woods is of mixed race. Indeed, the matter of race never entered the discussion until I was accused of racism. I deny racism. I will not apologise because I have no reason to apologise. If what I said in any way implied that Tiger Woods is of mixed race, so what? This is not a secret about him. It is not racist to say that someone is black or of mixed race. There is never any mention in the British media of Stephen Lawrence wherein he is not described as “the murdered black teenager”. Is that racist?

“Is it racist to suggest that the French drink champagne or that the Jews eat chopped liver? I am a Spaniard. Is it racist every time someone describes me as a Spanish golfer? Would it be thought racist if someone asked whether I would like paella on the European Tour dinner menu? And would it be racist even if I merely laughed and said ‘that’s fine’? I only ask because Tiger Woods has said “it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf”. I agree.

Tiger and Sergio nearly come to blows

“So who are these people who take it upon themselves to be offended on Woods’ behalf? Is any of them black or of mixed race? The management of the European Tour is hardly celebrated across the world as a model of interracial, non-sexist integration. Nor is any other part of the professional golf world. Should we not look at the fact that, after more than a decade and a half at the top of the game, Tiger Woods is still virtually the only top-100 player who is not white? Isn’t that a rather more pertinent question than arguing about whether an informal, unplanned remark gave offence to people whose own circumstances were in no way touched by it?

“If the authorities decide to take any punitive action against me, I shall take legal action against them. I shall also consult my lawyers if any sponsors try to vary my contracts with them. This is a non-issue blown up by the media and by self-important individuals anxious to jump on any bandwagon that permits them to air their own constantly-nurtured sense of outrage. It’s time people grew up”.


My regular readers will have noted that the flow has slowed this year. This is largely because I am engaged in writing a book and also – and, as you may imagine, this is apt to interfere with the book-writing too – a new dog has joined our pack, a seven year-old rescue chocolate Labrador, name of Bear.