ARDMORE, Pa. — There were no priests in black robes, no curtained booth to slip into, no screened window to talk through.
But Sergio Garcia, star golfer currently suffering the aftereffects of foot-in-the-mouth disease, had it different than those who preceded him Tuesday to pre-U.S. Open news conferences.
Sergio's was a confessional.
Bless me, everybody, for I have sinned.
He didn't have to come in. A U.S. Golf Assn. official confirmed that. But he knew, as did the USGA, that it was the right thing to do.
And to his credit, Garcia did not try to brush through it, did not duck questions, nor do the common athlete non-apology apology. He wants to put it all behind him, but he knew that doesn't happen just by saying it.
At least two things are clear. He said a stupid, hurtful, racist thing. And now, he is facing up to all elements of that.
That doesn't excuse anything. What he said can't be erased. The hurt doesn't easily ease. But all too many athletes, as well as prominent people in all walks of life, have said or done something similar and tried to duck and run.
Tuesday, in front of more than 100 media people from all around the world, some of them black, Garcia did neither. No ducking, no running. For that, he gets some credit. For what he said, none.
The background of all this bears reviewing.
During the Players Championship in early May, Woods and Garcia were playing together, both in contention. Garcia was in the middle of the fairway, Woods 30 yards or so away in some trees. As Garcia went into his backswing, Woods pulled a wood out of his bag, signifying that he would go for the green, rather than pitch out. The Tiger gallery, always loving that sort of macho in their man, greeted the move with noise. Garcia's swing, allegedly disturbed, brought a shot well off to the right.
Afterward, Garcia said he didn't appreciate Woods' timing. Woods replied that it was just Sergio "whining again."
A week or so later, the gorse really hit the fan.
Garcia, at an awards ceremony in London, was asked, jokingly: "What night will you invite Tiger over for dinner?" Garcia replied, "Every night. We will serve him fried chicken."
It was 12:25 in the morning. Sitting nearby were other prominent members of the European tour. Rory McIlroy said he winced. Luke Donald said, "It just came out."
Presumably, alcohol had been consumed. Still, nothing excuses that mind-set, or that level of stupidity. Garcia now had a DWI. Driving While an Idiot.
Garcia was immediately sorry and said so many times to whomever would listen. Woods mostly brushed it off as something offensive and to be moved on from.
The U.S. Open would be their first reuniting, so to speak. And when Garcia went to shake Woods' hand Monday on the driving range and Woods took it, the photo went all over the place. Or, as we Internet-savvy, techie typists like to say, it went viral.
Tuesday's list of interview sessions included both. Woods is mandatory at these. He remains the straw that stirs the drink. Garcia was an obvious ad-on.
Woods was asked if Garcia had apologized. He said, "No, it's already done. We've already gone through it. It's time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days."