Have you ever had that persistent mosquito that just wouldn’t stop buzzing around your ears? The one that you swat at and swat at but you just can’t get? The one that drives you nuts?
It’s like the moment in an NBA series (usually around game 4 or 5) when the tension builds to a crescendo because guys are just sick of the same defender game after game after game. The bro-hugs and mutual respect get thrown out the window and all you’re left with is a nasty, scratchy fight on the court. At this point, the series stops becoming just a game. It is now a war.
Maybe Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia had played together one too many times. Maybe all the festering dislike for each other finally bubbled to the surface. Whatever the case may be, this weekend at the Players Championship was the closest golf has ever come to trash-talking. And I loved every minute of it.
Let’s set the stage. Tiger and Sergio are paired in the final group in the third round of The Players, unofficially known as the “fifth major.” Sergio is about to hit his second shot on the par-five 2nd hole from the right side of the fairway. As soon as he takes the club back, a roar emanates from the gallery around Tiger, whose tee shot ended up in the left rough. Sergio hits a bad one and immediately turns angrily in Tiger’s direction, scowling only as Sergio can scowl, essentially blaming Tiger for one of his bad shots.
So what caused the roar? Tiger pulled a fairway wood from his bag, indicating to the fans that he’s going for the green. For those who don’t follow golf, fans like it when players go for greens on par-fives. And they especially like it when that player is Tiger Woods.
Anyway, cue the trash talking via the media.
Tiger claimed that he thought Sergio had already hit. Sergio insinuated that Tiger did it on purpose to distract him. Tiger said that Sergio complains a lot, which is basically like Tiger calling Sergio a douchebag, considering how cautious he is with the media. Then Sergio said “At least I’m true to myself,” whatever that means.
Moreover, after they wrapped up play Saturday, Sergio was still yapping:
“I’m not going to lie, he’s not my favorite guy to play with. He’s not the nicest guy on tour,” he said.
You got served, Tiger!
Laugh if you will but this relatively tame back-and-forth qualifies as trash-talk in the hoity-toity game of golf. And get this: Tiger and Sergio’s little tête-à-tête is probably good for the game. It’s never a bad thing for personalities to shine through. Too often, golfers come off as robotic and stuffy. It’s incidents such as this (and this) that remind us that they’re actual human beings with actual feelings and emotions.
And nobody on tour is more emotional than Sergio. To many, he comes off as an entitled brat who thinks the world is out to get him. Casual observers consider him to be childish and immature. Out of all the players on tour, he definitely has a knack for turning off fans. Take yesterday, for example. Fans were actually yelling “Get in the water!” after some of his shots. Now that’s harsh.
So what’s the good news? First of all, he’s never, ever boring. And you can always count on him to say what he thinks, even if he shouldn’t. In the stuffy world of professional golf, he’s a Spanish breath of fresh air.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane:
- At a match play event in 1999, after hitting a bad tee shot, he took off his shoe and threw it at an advertising board. When the shoe was handed back to him, he proceeded to kick it down the fairway. Pure class.
- At the 2002 US Open, he gave the finger to a likely inebriated fan who was heckling him for taking too long to hit the ball. Needless to say, the heckling continued.
- At the same event, after being forced to play through some inclement weather, he told the media that play would have been called had Tiger been out there. Never a good idea to accuse your employer of preferential treatment.
- At the 2007 British Open, after a few bad breaks, he complained to the media that he’s “playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.” Don’t you see? Even God wants Sergio to lose.
- In 2007, he spat into the cup after missing a short par putt, leaving his saliva for the group behind him, later claiming that “it wasn’t a big deal.” That’s just gross.
- At last year’s Masters, he said that he’s “come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.” We’re still not feeling sorry for you, Sergio.
So the question begs itself. Is Sergio just a fiery and competitive player with little to no filter? Or is he kind of a dick?
One thing I do know is that I like watching him play, mostly because you never know what he’s going to do next. Look, golf is a frustrating game. We all know that. It’s forgivable for a player to lose his cool every now and then. But Sergio has a clear track record of childish behaviour and playing the victim card. Plus, he’s 33 years old so you can’t blame the ignorance of youth anymore.
But one thing he’s not is boring. Or predictable. I mean, who expected him to play the last two holes yesterday at six-over-par right after he finally drew even with Tiger? I’m surprised his club didn’t meet the same fate as the three balls he hit into the water.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the Tiger-Sergio playoff we all wanted. But we did add some fuel to a rivalry that will probably have a few more chapters when all is said and done. My advice to Sergio: You have a ton of talent; just let your clubs do the talking.
That’s what Tiger did. And he got the trophy.