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.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''