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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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

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Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

“I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

“I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

“I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

“Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

“I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”

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Bradley leads Dick's Sporting Goods Open into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 12:28 am

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Michael Bradley shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions' Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

The 52-year-old Bradley had five birdies and a bogey in the rain-delayed round to reach 11-under 133 at En-Joie Golf Club. A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, he's seeking his first victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Bart Bryant and Marco Dawson were tied for second. Bryant, the 2013 winner at En-Joie for his lone Champions title, had a 67. Dawson shot 70.

Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

Wes Short Jr. (65), Clark Dennis (70) and Tom Gillis (69) were 9 under, and Kenny Perry (69) was 7 under with first-round leader Doug Garwood (73), Mark Calcavecchia (69), Woody Austin (71), Jerry Haas (68) and Scott Parel (68). Perry won the 3M Championship two weeks ago in Minnesota.

Bernard Langer, the 2014 winner, was 5 under after a 69. Defending champion Scott McCarron had a 71 to get to 1 under. John Daly, the winner of the PGA Tour's 1992 B.C. Open at En-Joie, was 6 over after rounds of 73 and 77.

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Snedeker still in front on Day 3 of suspended Wyndham

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 11:21 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Brandt Snedeker held a three-stroke lead Saturday in the Wyndham Championship when the third round was suspended because of severe weather.

Snedeker was 16 under for the tournament with 11 holes left in the round at the final event of the PGA Tour's regular season.

Brian Gay was 13 under through 12 holes, and Trey Mullinax, Keith Mitchell, C.T. Pan and D.A. Points were another stroke back at varying stages of their rounds.

Thirty players were still on the course when play was halted during the mid-afternoon with thunder booming and a threat of lightning. After a 3-hour, 23-minute delay, organizers chose to hold things up overnight and resume the round at 8 a.m. Sunday.

When things resume, Snedeker - who opened with a 59 to become the first Tour player this year and just the 10th ever to break 60 - will look to keep himself in position to contend for his ninth victory on Tour and his first since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list

The 2012 FedEx Cup champion won the tournament in 2007, the year before it moved across town to par-70 Sedgefield Country Club.

Snedeker's final 11 holes of the round could wind up being telling: In seven of the 10 previous years since the tournament's move to this course, the third-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win.

And every leader who finished the third round here at 16 under or better has wound up winning, including Henrik Stenson (16 under) last year and Si Woo Kim (18 under) in 2016.

Snedeker started the day off strong, rolling in a 60-foot chip for birdie on the par-4 second hole, then pushed his lead to three strokes with a birdie on No. 5 that moved him to 16 under. But after he sank a short par putt on the seventh, thunder boomed and the horn sounded to stop play.

Gay was 12 holes into a second consecutive strong round when the delay struck. After shooting a 63 in the second round, he had four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. He placed his 200-yard second shot 10 feet from the flagstick and sank the putt.