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July 18, 2013

Garcia expecting fewer shots

GULLANE, Scotland — Jokes about Sergio Garcia and fried chicken, very popular with some fans at last month’s U.S. Open, apparently aren’t a staple of British diets.

“I definitely feel like everybody has moved on,” the Spaniard said after a final practice round Wednesday at Muirfield, “and that’s great.”

In late May, in the midst of a hissing match with Tiger Woods, Garcia made a racially tinged remark about inviting his rival over for dinner and serving fried chicken. Garcia apologized to Woods, but several weeks later, a few wiseguys at Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia, tried reviving the controversy.

As Garcia walked down one 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. Many fans cheered and a few expressed loud support for Garcia, only to have someone yell something like “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” as one did standing on the patio of a pricey home alongside another fairway.

Garcia finished tied for 45th.

“It kind of takes a lot of energy (to deal with),” he acknowledged. “There’s a group — I don’t know what you’d call them — that’s always going to be there. But over here, people have moved on. ... Every time I come to the UK, even though I’m not British, the crowds treat me extra special.”

That may be in part because Garcia, a golf prodigy once nicknamed “El Nino,” has been a force on Europe’s Ryder Cup team for more than a decade and played his first British Open as a 16-year-old amateur in 1996. Asked what he remembered about that debut, Garcia laughed.

“The grass was taller than I was,” he said.

Speaking of Youth: With all the buzz generated by 19-year-old Jordan Spieth’s win Sunday at the John Deere Open, four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero revealed life isn’t always glamorous for rising young stars.

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