If they had settled this like most former child stars, Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods would have staged a boxing match for charity and hugged it out after three rounds.
What they've done instead has been far more cringe-worthy, with Garcia punching himself out with a careless and unfunny "fried chicken" comment and then holding a hastily arranged press conference to apologize Wednesday.
"I want to send an unreserved apology. I did not want to offend anyone," an extremely contrite Garcia said from the BMW PGA Championship in Virginia Water, England. "My answer was totally stupid and out of place."
The 33-year-old from Spain, an eight-time PGA Tour winner who is ranked 14th in the world, was at a European Tour awards dinner Tuesday night when he was asked if he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open. "We'll have him 'round every night," Garcia said. "We will serve fried chicken."
"The comment that was made wasn't silly," Woods asserted in a series of tweets. "It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate. I'm confident that there is real regret the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's long past time to move on and talk about golf."
(RELATED: ROSENBERG: Sergio-Tiger flap revealed a lot about both men)
The latest twist in the Garcia-Woods feud recalls Fuzzy Zoeller's ill-advised comments in 1997, and Steve Williams's rant, also at an awards banquet, in 2011. In all three cases the racially tinged zingers were those of a man who was trying to be funny in public and blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
The Garcia-Woods dustup is different in that it won't end. Garcia can't help himself, expounding at length earlier this week on his distaste for everything Tiger, but we get it already. Woods is potential realized; Garcia is potential squandered. Each looks at the other and sees what he might have become had things been different. It really is that simple, as much as we try to make this about Garcia trying (unsuccessfully) to stare down Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship; Garcia over-celebrating after beating a flu-stricken Woods at the 2000 Battle at Bighorn; every Ryder Cup; and the 2013 Players Championship.
TPC Sawgrass, of course, was the site of their most recent flare-up, with Garcia complaining of crowd noise that resulted from Woods pulling a fairway wood for a daring recovery shot. Woods didn't apologize, said it was unsurprising that Garcia was complaining about something, and then he did the most insulting thing of all: He won the tournament. Also, Garcia, who had pulled even with two holes to play, lost it -- by repeatedly exploring the water hazards on 17 and 18. And there it was, their dysfunctional relationship in all its fractured glory: Potential realized vs. potential squandered; Woods a mentally impenetrable version of Garcia, and Garcia a mentally weak version of Woods; one guy with 14 majors and the other with none but innumerable excuses why not. Somebody call Dr. Phil.
Woods initially wasted precious few words on Garcia. He took his shot and moved on. Asked earlier this week if they might make up, he responded with usual economy: "No." He didn't elaborate. He didn't have to. Reporters laughed.
Garcia, meanwhile, couldn't find a microphone loud enough. "He's not my favorite guy to play with," Garcia said of Woods at the Players. "He's not the nicest guy on Tour." And El Nino was just getting warmed up. From the BMW in England this week he went on to say that Woods called him a whiner and was probably right, but that it was the first honest thing Woods said in 15 years. He added that the press didn't know Tiger the same way Garcia did but it was beginning to, and that if anything he, Garcia, was too honest for his own good, and ... Hey, where is everybody going? I'm not finished talking here! Put on the spot at the European Tour awards banquet Tuesday night, Garcia made the "fried chicken" crack and he apologized Wednesday and said he hadn't slept and felt "sick" and here we are.
British and U.S. Amateur champion Lawson Little said, "It's impossible to outplay an opponent you can't outthink." Exactly. Maybe Garcia will realize his potential someday. I hope he does. We should all hope he does. But he is the most woefully obvious candidate for a sports psychologist I have ever seen, in any sport. He kept throwing dirt until he had dug a hole so deep he could no longer climb out by himself and had to ask the world to throw him a rope. No. Scratch that. He became Monty Python's armless, legless, hopeless Black Knight to Tiger's King Arthur. "Come back here and take what's comin' to ya! I'll bite your legs off!"
Poor, poor Sergio. He can't win. Not like this.