Best Feuds in Golf

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The 1960 U.S. Open was the King's crowning moment, his ultimate charge, with a final-round 65 to win. Yet, Ben Hogan declared, "I played with a kid today who should have won this thing by 10 shots" — referring to Jack Nicklaus. A rivalry was born. Two years later, Nicklaus took the title in Arnold's Western Pennsylvania backyard. It was working class vs. privilege, draw versus fade, matinee idol versus fat, crew-cut kid. Many barbs were exchanged, business interests competed. The rivalry evolved into a feud, until the 1990s. These days, there's a genuine friendship.Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus The 1960 U.S. Open was the King's crowning moment, with a final-round 65 to win. But Ben Hogan declared, "I played with a kid today who should have won this thing by 10 shots" — referring to Jack Nicklaus. Two years later, Nicklaus took the title in Arnold's Western Pennsylvania backyard. It was working class vs. privilege, draw vs. fade, matinee idol vs. heavy, crew-cut kid. The rivalry evolved into a feud until the 1990s; now there's a genuine friendship.
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Phil Mickelson raised eyebrows around the world with his not-so-veiled criticism of Team USA Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson.
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Judge Elihu Smails vs. Al Czervik The Snob against the Slob. The Everyman versus the Elitist. Caddyshack rivals and country club archtypes, they embody two extremes of golf culture. Fictional, sure. But their comedic clashes still get at something real.
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Vijay Singh vs. the PGA Tour Talk about locking horns. After learning that he'd used deer antler spray, the Tour slapped Singh with a 90-suspension in February, then reconsidered the penalty based on new information from the World Anti-Doping Agency. That was too little, too late for Singh, who filed suit against the Tour, claiming that his reputation had been damaged. The cynic might say: What reputation? And the rest of us might say: Let the rutting begin!
5 of 23 Mike Ehrmann/SI
Lefty was the prodigy with charisma to match his golf game. He should have dominated his era, except that Tiger came along four years later. From Phil tweaking Tiger's choice in "inferior equipment" to Tiger's caddie calling Mickelson a "prick," resentment in this relationship has come early and often. Only in recent years has a truce been declared.Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson Lefty was the prodigy with charisma to match his golf game. He should have dominated his era, except that Tiger came along four years later. From Phil tweaking Tiger's choice in "inferior equipment" to Tiger's caddie calling Mickelson a "prick," resentment in this relationship has come early and often. Only in recent years has a truce been declared.
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Robertson, history's first golf professional, was the dominant player of his day. He enjoyed a prosperous business in St. Andrews making expensive clubs and featherie golf balls, and Morris, left, with Young Tom Morris, served under him as apprentice and then journeyman. In 1848, Robertson caught Morris experimenting with the newfangled gutta-percha ball and banished him from his shop. Three years later, Morris moved to Prestwick, in the West of Scotland, only returning home after Robertson's death in 1859.Old Tom Morris vs. Allan Robertson Old Tom Morris was, well, old, but Allan Robertson had senior status. Widely regarded as the history's first golf pro, he ran an equipment shop where Old Tom worked. Colleagues off the course, the two made a frequent and formidable team in challenge matches. But they had a falling out in 1851, when Robertson fired Morris after spotting his apprentice playing with a guttie percha ball -- a rival product to the featherie balls that Robertson sold. Morris moved to a post at Prestwick, and the rift between the two men never healed.
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Tiger's caddie used an expletive to describe Mickelson at a 2008 gathering in New Zealand, and was later quoted saying, "I don't particularly like the guy. He pays me no respect at all and hence I don't pay him any respect. It's no secret we don't get along either." Said Mickelson: "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones [caddie Jim Mackay] on my bag and representing me."Steve Williams vs. Phil Mickelson Keep up and shut up? Williams forgot the caddie's golden rule in 2008 when he bad-mouthed Mickelson to a British newspaper. "I don't particularly like the guy. He pays me no respect at all and hence I don't pay him any respect. It's no secret that we don't get along either." Mickelson's comebacker? "After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (aka, Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me."
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Slammin' Sam had the natural swing, the longevity and the most tour wins in history. Still, it rankled him that Hogan grabbed more glory. In 1950, Snead smoked the Tour with 11 victories, yet Hogan earned Player of the Year honors — with one win. Of course, it happened to be the U.S. Open, and it came after an incredible comeback from a life-threatening car accident, but to Snead it was just one win.Sam Snead vs. Ben Hogan Slammin' Sam had the natural swing, the longevity and the most tour wins in history. Still, it rankled him that Hogan grabbed more glory. In 1950, Snead smoked the Tour with 11 victories, yet Hogan earned Player of the Year honors — with one win. Of course, it happened to be the U.S. Open, and it came after an incredible comeback from a life-threatening car accident, but to Snead it was just one win.
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The Shark had a vision: Start a World Golf Tour that would let the best compete head-to-head more often. Tim Finchem had a better idea. He told the Shark, "over my dead body," then snatched the idea for himself, calling it the World Golf Championships. After numerous public and private patch-ups, don't think for a minute that this feud is done.Greg Norman vs. Tim Finchem The Shark had a vision: Start a World Golf Tour that would let the best compete head-to-head more often. Tim Finchem had a better idea. He told the Shark, "over my dead body," then snatched the idea for himself, calling it the World Golf Championships. After numerous public and private patch-ups, don't think for a minute that this feud is done.
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Innovation in equipment is as old as golf itself. Few clubmakers were ever better than Solheim, but when the USGA banned his square-grooved Ping Eye 2s in 1989, he sued the USGA and the PGA Tour. Rancor, legal fees and settlements resulted; wounds re-opened in 2010 when grandfathered wedges caused a dust-up between Phil Mickleson and Scott McCarron. This time, Karsten's son John made nice with the Tour, waiving the company's right to prevent the Tour from banning the Ping Eye2.Karsten Solheim vs. Ruling Authorities Innovation in equipment is as old as golf itself. Few clubmakers were ever better than Solheim, but when the USGA banned his square-grooved Ping Eye 2s in 1989, he sued the USGA and the PGA Tour. Rancor, legal fees and settlements resulted; wounds re-opened in 2010 when grandfathered wedges caused a dust-up between Phil Mickleson and Scott McCarron. This time, Karsten's son John made nice with the Tour, waiving the company's right to prevent the Tour from banning the Ping Eye 2.
11 of 23 David Walberg/SI
The grumpy, graceful swinger from Fiji didn't say a word when his caddie, Paul Tesori, sported a cap with the letters "Tiger Who?" at the 2000 Presidents Cup, adding ice to an already frosty relationship. Diplomacy was also in short order at the 2005 Masters, when Singh and Mickelson nearly came to blows in the locker room after Veej accused Lefty of leaving a bramble of spike marks in his wake on the wet greens. Two years earlier, while many were applauding Annika Sorenstam's courage for entering the Colonial, Singh sniffed, "She doesn't belong out here.Vijay Singh vs. Tiger, Phil and Annika The graceful swinger from Fiji didn't say a word when his caddie, Paul Tesori, sported a cap with "Tiger Who?" at the 2000 Presidents Cup. At the 2005 Masters, Singh and Mickelson nearly came to blows in the locker room after Veej accused Lefty of leaving spike marks. Two years earlier, when Annika Sorenstam entered the Colonial, Singh sniffed, "She doesn't belong out here. If I'm drawn with her, which I won't be, I won't play."
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One of the testiest finals in the match play history of the PGA Championship revolved around Hagen and Sarazen in 1923. Both players had hall-of-fame talent and egos. Sarazen felt Hagen disrespected him and accused Hagen of skipping the '22 event to avoid the then 20-year-old U.S. Open champ. All square at the second hole of sudden death, Sarazen caught a lucky break on his drive, which irked the Haig big-time.Gene Sarazen vs. Walter Hagen After a long simmer, the bad blood between two outsize egos boiled over prior to the '23 PGA Championship, when Sarazen claimed that Hagen had ducked him by skipping the event the year before. Face to face at last, the two arrived all-square at the second hole of sudden-death (the PGA back then was a match-play competition), where Sarazen got a lucky break on an errant drive. Hagen was annoyed. The Squire was unabashed. "I'll put this one up so close to the hole it will break Walter's heart," he informed the gallery. True to his word, Sarazen stiffed his approach. But Hagen's heart kept beating, pumping more bad blood for years to come.
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The brouhaha commenced at the 1989 Ryder Cup when Azinger vetoed Seve's request to take a scuffed ball out of play. It escalated in the 1991 "War by the Shore" at Kiawah, with Zinger stating, "He's the king of gamesmanship," after a Seve coughing jag during play. Seve's retort: "Everyone knows I have allergies." Ballesteros closed the match and said, "The American team has 11 nice guys...and Paul Azinger." Ouch!Paul Azinger vs. Seve Ballesteros At the '89 Ryder Cup, Zinger irked Seve by rejecting his request to take a scuffed ball out of play. Two years later, during the Cup at Kiawah, Seve irked Zinger by coughing in the course of competition. "He's the king of gamesmanship," Azinger said. "Everyone knows I have allergies," said Seve, who later added, "The Americans have 11 nice guys, and Paul Azinger."
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Bobby and younger brother Rees competed for their father's attention as kids and have competed with each other as adults. They're both phenomenally renowned architects in their own right, but barely speak, outside of a spate of Cain vs. Abel lawsuits over the years.Robert T. Jones Jr. vs. Rees Jones Like Cain and Abel, they were childhood rivals, fighting for the favor of a famous father figure (in this case, their renowned architect dad, Robert Trent Jones Sr.). Unlike the Biblical siblings, the tension between them never led to murder. But it has lingered, giving rise to a bevy of lawsuits.
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He threw a plate of food at David Feherty at the 1999 Ryder Cup, glared and argued with fans who taunted him with "Mrs. Doubtfire," and publicly quarreled with Nick Faldo over Ryder Cup captaincy prospects. He scolded Ian Poulter for skipping a Ryder Cup qualifying event in Europe in 2008 and again for passing up the Vivendi Trophy event honoring Seve in 2009. He scuffled with Sandy Lyle after Lyle accused him of cheating at the 2005 Indonesian Open.Colin Montgomerie vs. Everybody He threw a plate of food at David Feherty at the 1999 Ryder Cup, argued with fans who taunted him with "Mrs. Doubtfire," and quarreled with Nick Faldo over Ryder Cup captaincy prospects. He scolded Ian Poulter for skipping a Ryder Cup qualifying event in 2008 and again for passing up the Vivendi Trophy in 2009. He scuffled with Sandy Lyle after Lyle accused him of cheating at the 2005 Indonesian Open.
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Sergio insinuated that Harrington got lucky in beating him at the 2007 British Open, which may have been why Harrington gave reporters the impression that Garcia gagged away the 2008 PGA by hitting into the water on the 70th hole. Other than Ryder Cup allegiance, the two have "zero in common," Harrington said.Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington Sergio insinuated that Harrington got lucky in beating him at the 2007 British Open, which may have been why Harrington gave reporters the impression that Garcia gagged away the 2008 PGA by hitting into the water on the 70th hole. Other than Ryder Cup allegiance, the two have "zero in common," Harrington said.
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Scott McCarron and Phil Mickelson At the 2010 Farmers Insurance Open, "Groove-Gate" exploded when McCarron said he considered it cheating to use the old Pings. Mickelson fired back that he didn't appreciate being "slandered." It all seemed so important then.
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Phil Mickelson and NikeIn a 2003 interview with GOLF Magazine, Lefty hit the company with an overhand right when he said that Tiger Woods had saddled himself with "inferior equipment" when he signed on to carry Nike sticks. In a backhand compliment, Mickelson added that Tiger was the only player good enough "to overcome the equipment he's stuck with."
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Tiger Woods and Stephen Ames Ames said he had a chance to beat Woods at the 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play given Tiger's erratic driving. Not amused, Woods demolished Ames, 9 and 8. Asked what he though of the comments, Woods said, "9 and 8."
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Martha Burk and Hootie Johnson Never mind that Burk's childhood nickname was also "Hootie." That's where the similarities between her and the former Masters chairman end. In 2002, Burk launched a protest against Augusta for its failure to admit female members. The other Hootie countered that the club would do things on its own time and "not at the point of a bayonet." In 2012, it finally happened: two women were admitted to the famous club, Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore. "It's about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century," Burk said. "But it's a milestone for women in business." Zing!
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Annika Sorenstam vs. Dottie Pepper Pepper cheered when the Europeans missed putts at the '94 Solheim Cup, so European stalwart Annika Sorenstam put Pepper's face on a punching bag for the '98 Euro squad to hit.
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Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie At the 2007 Ginn Tribute, Wie seemed to be on her way to breaking the LPGA's 88 rule, which forces players to take the rest of the year off if they shoot that high or worse in a single round. With two holes remaining, Wie withdrew with what she said was a wrist injury. Tournament host Sorenstam cried baloney. In 2013, Sorenstam told Golf Magazine of Wie, "What I see now is that the talent that we all thought would be there is not there." Annika later apologized.
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Tom Watson v. Golf Heretics A self-appointed guardian of tradition, Watson felt his knickers twist in '94 when Gary McCord, during a Masters telecast, referred to Augusta's greens as being "bikini waxed." An irritated Watson likened McCord to Howard Stern and called for his expulsion from Masters telecasts (that happened). Eleven years before that, Watson took issue with another Gary (Player) when he accused the Man in Black of cheating in the '83 Skins Game by plucking a piece of greenery from behind his ball. Watson said Player had improved his lie. "I was staggered," Player later wrote of the accusation, adding. "I think what Tom did will haunt him for the rest of his life."