Hawk's Nest: The origin of the Tiger-Sergio feud

By John HawkinsMay 13, 2013, 12:54 pm

Golf writers throughout the universe celebrated Christmas 7 ½ months early in 2013, as The Players Championship produced enough ripe, sexy storylines to last us deep into the calendar. Two awesome catfights – one beginning with a lawsuit, the other ending with someone in serious need of a wetsuit – capped a week that has me pondering why I’d ever want to do anything else for a living.

So much for ditching it all to audition for the position as Brooklyn Decker’s personal masseur. Vijay Singh sues the PGA Tour, not only biting the hand that feeds, but ordering his lawyers to chew off Camp Ponte Vedra’s entire right arm! Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods hissing at each other in public!

Garcia’s aquatic adventures and Woods’ 78th PGA Tour victory only provided the tawdry tale with additional heft, sort of like telling Jackie Gleason he needed to put on a few more pounds.

Poor David Lingmerth. The guy makes it to the 72nd hole with a chance to force a playoff – and he gets a pack of saltines from the folks who run the buzz bureau. Actually, “poor” is not the right word to describe the Swedish rookie, who earned $709,334 by finishing T-2. Maybe he can buy a megaphone and some Sergio repellent the next time someone tries to crash his 15 minutes of fame.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some rubbernecking to do.

DAN HICKS NAILED it. The Woods-Garcia feud began on the evening of Aug. 28, 2000 – barely 24 hours after Tiger holed that gimme in the dark to win at Firestone by 11 shots. As NBC’s golf anchor pointed out a couple of times on the weekend telecasts, Tiger didn’t appreciate Sergio’s end-zone dance after he beat Woods in an 18-hole, made-for-TV match known as the Battle at Bighorn.

Garcia took the name of the event literally and blew his bugle with gusto. Woods was tired that night after demolishing the field in Ohio, came up with the sniffles once it became clear he wouldn’t win, then added the young Spaniard to his list of Things I Will Crush 80 Times Before I Die.

Here’s the thing: compared with most of Sergio’s celebrations over the years, this one hardly was over the top. He didn’t show up Woods, who had to approve Garcia as his opponent for the match to even occur. This was right in the middle of Tiger’s greatest season ever, so he wasn’t used to losing to anyone, anywhere, but no one ever said anger draws its roots from rationale.

From there, the alpha-male factor prevented the two men from resolving their differences privately, or even trying. Garcia’s inferiority complex as a competitor made the relationship more complicated. His most notable gripes about Woods have been well-documented; others illustrate how deep-seated the resentment would become.

At Westchester one year, Sergio approached me on the practice green with stern look. “Why is it always about him?” he asked several times. “You guys act like nobody else is out here. Only him.” This went on for a few minutes – none of my replies were registering. Just when I thought the guy was starting to crack up, Garcia broke into his million-dollar smile.

“I had you!” he rejoiced. “You thought I was serious! Oh man, the look on your face was so good!”

Sergio was right. He did have me. And it was funny, but also telling. In a weird sort of way.

WE GOT TO know each other pretty well, mainly because Garcia factored so frequently at the major championships and because he could be an extremely likeable, down-to-earth dude. I spent a bunch of time with him one year at Callaway Gardens, home of the old Buick Challenge, where Golf Digest arranged to have a Ferrari delivered to the course for photos.

Sergio likes fast cars. I am certain of that, because he threw me into the passenger seat and took me on a death ride across some nearby countryside. He reached speeds well in excess of 150 miles per hour, and as frightened as I was that my life was in the hands of a 22-year-old kid who couldn’t make a 4-footer, it was an immense bonding experience.

My favorite Sergio story happened a few years later in Charlotte. We had arranged an interview after the Wednesday pro-am, and as he made his way off Quail Hollow’s 18th green, Garcia headed straight for the handicapped seating area, where seven or eight people were enjoying the day.

There were a couple of mentally handicapped kids, a few others in wheelchairs – Sergio spent at least 20 minutes with them, probably longer, smiling and listening and enriching their lives with his playful charm. Having spent a significant portion of my adulthood at pro-ams, I am fairly certain I have never seen a more profound act of random kindness from a tour pro.

Over the years, I have seen Garcia kiss old ladies on the forehead and give complete strangers more time than they could possibly ask for. I have also seem him spit in a hole at Doral and heard him whine about stuff in a ghastly displays of over-entitlement. He is a fascinating human being, full of flaws and sheer brilliance, raised by two incredibly kind parents, then baptized to mega-greatness as the first and most visible post-Woods phenom.

Some paths are easier to navigate than others.

THIS WEEK’S BYRON Nelson Championship used to be one the true hotspots on the PGA Tour. Huge crowds, great weather – the first big gathering of top-tier players after the Masters. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, those days are gone. The biggest name in this year’s field is probably John Daly, which is saying something.

Sticking to the Sergio theme, Garcia made the Nelson his first “regular” Tour event in 1999 – his U.S. debut had been at the Masters that same spring. He would finish T-3 at TPC Las Colinas, and the excitement he generated almost seemed surreal. There must have been 50 teenaged girls hanging around the clubhouse, waiting for him a half-hour after play had concluded.

I was introduced to Garcia by his then-agent. The kid had impeccable manners and a self-assuredness you don’t often find in a 19-year-old. No question in my mind, the burden of expectations and ensuing failures haunt Sergio like few players I’ve ever met. For him to miss Sawgrass’ 17th green twice to the right with a wedge – we’re talking about a predominantly right-to-left player – is difficult to comprehend.

Three years later, I was fortunate enough to get some time with Woods at Las Colinas for an oral history I was compiling on the 1999 Ryder Cup. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning me toward the players’ dining room, which is strictly off limits to reporters.

“You sure?” I asked.

Tiger didn’t bother to respond or turn around. When Eldrick Almighty says you’re going to player dining, even one question is one too many.

We were about five minutes into the interview, and who shows up at our table, looking for a place to eat? Phil Mickelson. The entire room went quiet. All eyes seemed to be on us – I half-expected Allen Funt to come barging through the door at any moment. And for the next 20 minutes or so, I watched the two best players of this generation in some awkward, somewhat humorous small talk.

It is my belief that Woods and Mickelson are much more cordial now than they were in 2002, but on that May afternoon, it was almost like two Dobermans staking out their turf. I remember the two men making a $100 bet on the NBA Finals even though the series was still almost a month away. Woods took his favorite team, the Lakers, and Mickelson, who had initiated the wager in an obvious attempt at camaraderie, took the New Jersey Nets, who wound up getting swept by L.A.

I still wonder if Tiger got paid. What I don’t wonder about is his mental stamina when it comes to judging people, figuring out who’s on his side and who isn’t. Garcia got bounced on that August evening in 2000, and almost 13 years later, a longtime grudge continues to be public. I don’t think Woods pulled that club from his bag on the second hole last Saturday to distract Garcia on purpose, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t regret it, either.

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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie with via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods' hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods would added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”