García was the subject of vociferous heckling at the Players Championship earlier this year at Sawgrass, a tournament where he lost out in a play-off to Rickie Fowler. Sympathy for the Spaniard is sometimes absent in America, following controversial remarks two years ago that he would invite Tiger Woods to dinner and serve him “fried chicken”.
The world No10, searching for his first major title, described his joy at playing the Open and how he relished being in front of British crowds who carry him “in the palm of their hand”.
“I’ve always said it – and it’s not just for me – that the British crowds are the best anywhere,” said García. “I understand if you are a European playing in the US trying to win a tournament against one of their favourite Americans, there is always going to be people that try to make it tougher on you.
“It’s sad but it’s normal. Personally, I think in golf I’m all for cheering for someone as hard as you can but cheering against them doesn’t seem right.
“I’ve always been very thankful for the way the British crowds have treated me. They have always been amazing. They’ve always carried me in the palm of their hand. I don’t know what I did but I’m glad I did it and that’s one of the reasons why I love the Open so much.”
García, 35, came close to victory at Carnoustie in 2007 but eventually lost a play-off against Pádraig Harrington. Last year at Hoylake he finished joint second, trailing Rory McIlroy by two shots with a final-round 66.
“To come here and win the Open would be extremely special as it’s St Andrews – the home of golf – and remembering what Seve [Ballesteros] did here would make it an even more amazing experience,” added García, speaking at a TaylorMade event.
“I didn’t watch it live but I’ve seen replays of Seve in 1984 and it’s great watching him throwing punches this way and that way. It is special. It is just amazing. I’ve always said that this is the best championship we have in golf, no doubt about it – for everything it means and everything it stands for.
“It would be amazing to win it. Put it this way, if I could stand here and say I could only win one tournament for the rest of my life, I would obviously choose the Open.”
This article was written by James Riach at St Andrews, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 14th July 2015 23.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010