The Van Cynical Mailbag: Sergio vs. Tiger is the latest in golf's tradition of lame excuses

Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia
AP
Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia in happier times at the 1999 Masters.

Welcome to Lame Excuses Week. You’ll just have to guess who inspired this new holiday with their actions at The Players. Let’s get started:

Hey, I went ahead and wrote the first paragraph before you got here. A marshal told me it was OK...

Sheesh, how am I supposed to write a golf column with all those damn birds chirping outside the window?...

I had my column done but I left the printout in my pants when I did the laundry. And when I took it out, the dog ate it. (I actually don’t have a dog and I don’t do the laundry. Also, my printer doesn’t work. But are you calling me a liar?)...

Fred Ridley said it was OK (so I gave him Roberto de Vicenzo’s phone number)...

“I made the putt. It just didn’t go in.” That one came from Tom Kite, I think after he narrowly missed a putt on the 18th at the Masters one year. I know what he meant. That’s why I steal his line and use it on a regular basis...

I forget which trendy golf magazine travel writer spit this one out, but his explanation for hitting an errant drive and making a big number on some hole was that he “caught the backwash from a jet passing overhead” during his backswing. Uh-huh...

And the winner is… Paul Azinger after he returned to the tour in the mid-1990s following a tough battle with lymphoma. “I don’t want to make excuses,” he’d say impishly after a round, pausing for effect, “but I did have cancer.” He was joking. That’s allowed as long as you’re the one who had the cancer...

Golf and excuses have been inexorably intertwined throughout history. One man’s explanation is another man’s excuse. It’s all in the point of view. So Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods exchanging dirty looks is nothing new. But in the New Age of the perfectly scrubbed, oh-so-politically-correct world of the PGA Tour that dust-up seemed refreshingly honest.

You think Sam Snead and Ben Hogan liked each other? Or Snead and Gene Sarazen? Or Byron Nelson and… wait. Everyone liked Byron. He was The Nicest Man Ever.

So Sergio and Tiger unfriending each other is OK. Ditto for Tiger and Phil Mickelson, Tiger and Vijay Singh, Phil and Vijay, and plenty of others.

Golf is a competition. There is a winner and a bunch of losers. History is written by the victors. Or, as Tiger texted after trouncing an all-yellow-clad Sergio in a British Open, “I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird.”

Relax. Fred Ridley said it was OK.

The Short Game: If Tiger Woods can edge out Jeff Maggert, David Lingmerth, Kevin Streelman, Martin Laird and Ryan Palmer, among others, at The Players, he is clearly all the way back. Four wins are four wins, however. That quirky leaderboard is exactly why The Players is an enigma as a tournament, but a fun enigma… I’m trying to mask my disappointment but the lack of wind made the par-3 17th a little less dangerous than usual. Only 44 shots found the water in four rounds and only four players drowned two shots in a row: Sergio Garcia, Eric Compton, William McGirt and Colt Knost. Garcia’s disaster came Sunday. The others were Thursday… One thing missing from the final Players printed stats package handed out to the media was the payday. There were FedEx Cup points and lists out the wazoo but no money earnings. An ironic oversight. You know it’s a big purse when a three-way tie for second (Lingmerth, Streelman, Maggert) pays $709,330… Maggert jumped from 429th to 152nd in the world rankings with his finish. “It’s a lot easier to play in this when you’re 49,” he told me after his round Sunday. “You don’t care about the points or the five-year exemption. I don’t want a five-year exemption to play out here against these guys.”

These just in from the Van Cynical Mailbag:

What does Sergio Garcia have that LeBron James doesn’t? A quadruple-double.

--Doug S. via email

I like questions that come with answers attached. Less work for me. Back to my nap, Dougie. Thanks for the effort.

Haven’t seen one golf writer question Tiger’s drop on 14 and yet the blimp view clearly showed it was wrong.

--Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

A lot of viewers had similar questions. I was pursuing a story on Ryan Palmer on Sunday so I missed the 14th hole episode. A number of writers followed up on it, though, Lionel. Here are addresses to two stories at Golf.com and ESPN.com.

Is Tiger Woods now the favorite for the U.S. Open at Merion?

--Kirby via email

It sure isn’t Sergio Garcia, although he’ll be glad to know there are no island greens at Merion. Tiger is now the favorite for the U.S. Open… and, oh yeah, every other tournament he tees it up in for the foreseeable future. Feels familiar, doesn’t it?

What does Sergio’s debacle at The Players do to his ranking on your list of the best players who haven’t won majors?

--William R. via email

The high-powered 286 computers at the South Hampton Institute of Technology are still working on the permutations of what happened. I haven’t updated my best major-less players list in a while. Sergio had been kind of a ceremonial entry on the list during his slump. Now he’s playing his way back up. He may have cracked the top five with this latest showing. He definitely moved up one spot when Adam Scott accidentally won the Masters and was no longer eligible for consideration.

 

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