Woods, Garcia in war of words

By Ryan LavnerMay 12, 2013, 1:56 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The start was ominous, with Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods exchanging first-tee pleasantries and little else Saturday at TPC Sawgrass.

No matter.

They saved their most compelling comments for after the third round of The Players.

In what was billed as the reprising of their longstanding feud, Tiger vs. Sergio, Round No. 20, did not disappoint. After all, this was an opportunity for Woods to reassert his dominance. This was a chance for Garcia to exact some revenge against his longtime nemesis.

And then they played the par-5 second hole. Follow along.

After their drives, Garcia was on the right side of the fairway, while Woods found the pine needles on the left.

What happened next depends on whom you ask.

This much is certain: Garcia blocked his fairway-wood shot way right, into the trees, and a two-shot swing ensued. Garcia made bogey, Woods birdied, and Tiger briefly seized the outright lead.

Garcia claims that fans had cheered as he started his downswing. The reason? Woods had pulled a 5-wood from his bag, and the fans roared because he was attempting to reach the par 5 in two shots.

Clearly agitated, Garcia muttered to himself for a few holes. He seemed to collect himself after the bogey, however, making four consecutive pars. But on No. 7, he had a brief exchange with a heckler as he prepared to play his second shot. 

Video: Tiger-Sergio feud takes center stage

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“Nothing personal,” the 20-something fan told Garcia, “but I hope you miss it.”

Garcia jawed back: “You don’t want to go home early, do you?”

Garcia hit his approach to 30 feet, his final shot before the horn sounded to suspend play because of inclement weather in the area.

Though he hadn’t created much excitement on the course – no birdies on the first six holes before the horn sounded – Garcia opted for pyrotechnics on TV.

In an NBC interview, Garcia blamed Woods for distracting him during the second shot on No. 2.

“I wouldn’t say that he didn’t see that I was ready,” Garcia said, “but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit. … I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”

Well, what Garcia said on national television certainly bothered Woods, who was made aware of the remarks during the nearly two-hour delay.

Upon the restart, Woods played his second shot into No. 7 as Garcia waited by the green. Then, the Spaniard didn’t wait for his fellow playing competitor, deciding to attempt his birdie putt while Woods was still walking up toward the green.

They didn’t interact for the next two hours, until play was finally suspended for the day because of darkness.

With both players struggling with their games for much of the day, it appears they saved their best shots for the post-round interviews.

First came Tiger.

Conducting an interview underneath the clubhouse veranda, Woods was asked about what happened on No. 2.

“Well, the marshal told me (Sergio) already hit so I pulled a club and was ready to play my shot,” he explained. “Then I heard his comments afterward, and it’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something.”

Did he ever speak with Garcia directly about the incident?

“We didn’t do a lot of talking,” Woods replied, unsmiling.

He spoke for nearly four minutes, then was whisked away by a PGA Tour official.

Less than a minute later, Garcia appeared on the side of the patio. The TV camera lights flipped on.

“It’s very simple,” he started. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on because the other guy is hitting and you do something when you’re in the crowd, and the crowd is going to respond. It’s going to affect the other player. Unfortunately, he didn’t help me very much.

“Obviously, I did hit some bad shots after that, and I’m blaming myself for those. But that was a little bit unfortunate and sometimes you need to be a bit more careful.”

Garcia was then told of Woods’ comments, specifically his remark that it “wasn’t real surprising” the 33-year-old was “complaining about something.”

“That’s fine,” Garcia said. “At least I’m true to myself. I know what I’m doing, and he can do whatever he wants.”

Saturday was merely the latest episode in an ongoing saga between the two high-profile players.

After all, no one has stunted Garcia’s career quite like Woods, dating to their first encounters in 1999.

But it didn’t take long for their relationship to deteriorate.

After finishing second to Woods at the 1999 PGA, the then-20-year-old Garcia celebrated like he won a major – more on that in a bit – when he defeated a flu-ridden Woods in the “Battle at Bighorn,” a made-for-TV exhibition in 2000.

At the 2002 U.S. Open, Garcia complained that play should have been suspended during the second round because of heavy rains. He grumbled to reporters that if Woods had been on the course, play would have been called. Paired in the final round that year at Bethpage Black, Woods shot 72 to Garcia’s 74 and won his second U.S. Open trophy. Garcia, of course, is still majorless.

In the final round of the 2006 British Open, Garcia dressed head-to-toe in canary yellow and was crushed by Woods, 67-73. Afterward, Woods reportedly texted a friend: “I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird.”

In all, they’ve now played in the same group 20 times on the PGA Tour.

Prior to Saturday, Woods had shot the lower score 12 times (and tied four times). Only three times has Garcia carded a better score than his longtime rival, but not since 2006 and never on the weekend.

Through 14 1/2 holes Saturday, Garcia was 1 over par on his round, while Woods was even.

Despite all the bickering, despite all the years’ worth of frustration, Garcia still finds himself firmly in this tournament. With 3 1/2 holes to go in his third round, he is in a tie for second (with Woods and Henrik Stenson), two shots behind surprise leader David Lingmerth.

The bell rings – sorry, the third round resumes – at 7:10 a.m. ET Sunday.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.