Nearly a month after his racially insensitive remarks regarding Masters champion Tiger Woods became a major controversy on the PGA Tour, Fuzzy Zoeller apologized in person to Woods during a 20-minute lunch yesterday at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, where both are playing in this week's Colonial tournament.
Woods said later that he hoped they could move on.
"I found out some things that I needed to know and let him know how I felt," Woods said later at his regular news conference, a portion of which was televised live on CNN for the second straight week. "Now it's done, it's over. Hopefully, we'll both have good tournaments this week."
Asked if his meeting with Zoeller would have a positive impact on golf, Woods said, "I think so. Over time we'll see this as an incident that was good for golf. But it's going to take some time."
Zoeller became the center of this lingering controversy during and after this year's Masters.
First Zoeller, 45, jokingly referred to Woods, 21, as a "little boy." Zoeller was asked after his final round at the tournament what he thought Woods, who was on his way to a 12-shot victory, might have on the menu for next year's pre-tournament champions dinner at Augusta National.
Zoeller, the 1979 Masters champion, said that he hoped Woods would not include fried chicken. As he walked away, Zoeller turned around and added in a seemingly less-than-joking tone, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
When the tape of Zoeller's interview was shown more than a week later on CNN, the furor began. Zoeller apologized before the Greensboro Classic, then immediately withdrew from the tournament. He has not played since and said he wouldn't until speaking with Woods in person.
Woods initially seemed to accept Zoeller's apology through a statement released by his representatives at International Management Group, but last week said it was not his idea to release the statement and that he had problems with Zoeller's final comment.
Asked yesterday whether he had a better understanding of that comment, Woods said, "A little bit, but not really."
Said Zoeller, who conducted separate interviews by the practice tee, "We met. We talked. I did my apologies. It was very positive."
While Zoeller tries to revive his career and his image -- the remarks cost him a Kmart contract worth an estimated $300,000 -- Woods is looking to become the first PGA player since Gary Player to win three straight tournaments some 20 years ago.
Coming off a two-shot win at the Byron Nelson Classic in nearby Irving, Texas, it was announced Monday that Woods had signed a five-year contract with American Express for an estimated $4 million a year. It pushes Woods' endorsement deals, which also include Nike and Titleist, to nearly $100 million.
Pub Date: 5/21/97