VIRGINIA WATER, England – Colin Montgomerie called the Sergio Garcia "fried chicken" controversy a "mountain out of a molehill."
The Scottish player spoke Friday about the controversy surrounding Garcia and George O'Grady, the European Tour CEO who used the term "colored" during a live television interview in which he was reacting to the spat between Garcia and Tiger Woods.
"It's a mountain out of a molehill, to be honest. Totally," Montgomerie said at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. "I hope it hasn't taken away from the BMW, who have set up a fantastic tournament. Now we've got the chief executive involved in the whole thing having to say 'sorry.' We're all frightened to say anything; we're frightened to open our mouths in case we say something that isn't kosher in 2013. Somebody should tell us what to say because no one is quite sure what is right and wrong."
Garcia and O'Grady have apologized for the comments.
Woods and Garcia have exchanged barbs over the past two weeks, dating to the third round of The Players Championship when Garcia implied that Woods purposely stirred up the gallery as the Spaniard was playing a shot. But the situation got uglier Tuesday when Garcia and his Ryder Cup teammates were at a dinner at the BMW event. The emcee, Golf Channel's Steve Sands, jokingly asked Garcia if he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open.
"We'll have him round every night," Garcia replied. "We will serve fried chicken."
O'Grady said Thursday that "most of Sergio's friends are colored athletes in the United States." The word "colored" was once widely used in the United States to refer to African-Americans but it is now considered antiquated and offensive.
"George says colored, somebody says black, but who is to say who is right and wrong, and for the chief executive who is a very educated man to get caught up then we need to decide what we can and can't say and move on quickly," Montgomerie said.
Montgomerie said the furor wouldn't affect his relationship with Garcia.
"I feel for Garcia, but then that's me condoning it," Montgomerie said. "I am not allowed to feel sorry for him. But we are a family here on the European Tour, a close family unit and we stand up for each other. I've played a lot of Ryder Cups with Sergio and we are a very close family and we should remain that way. This shouldn't affect us."
The recent Hall of Fame inductee also talked about speaking publicly.
"If I get asked at the next press conference I'll have to say 'sorry, no comment' and hope that is not offending anybody," he said. "You just can't say a thing, can you? It's a shame, it's a pity. The three 'no-no's' are race, religion and politics and you are going to upset someone along the line if you mention any of them. "It's time to move on and talk about golf."