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.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.