Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia: Anatomy of a feud

Richard Heathcote

The Tiger-Sergio imbroglio began back in the late ‘90s, but Tiger says it's finally time to put it behind us and "move on."

Tiger Woods’ feud with Sergio Garcia may have gained traction at the recent Players Championship, but the duo’s loathing for each other goes way back. What began 14 years ago as a knock-down, drag-out start to a potential rivalry between two skinny guys -- a 20-something burgeoning superstar and a promising 19-year-old rookie -- has evolved into a nasty war of words between golf’s best and an envious competitor who never quite lived up to his potential.

Here, then, is how it's all unfolded (though, as they say, stay tuned):

1999 -- Garcia wins worldwide renown -- and nearly the tournament -- with his antics during the PGA Championship at Medinah. His incredible, eyes-closed recovery shot from the trunk of a tree at No. 16 in Sunday’s final round that has the young Sergio sprinting, jumping, and scissor-kicking up the fairway as he follows his ball to the green has the crowd rooting for the kid.

What likely raises the ire of Woods that day is Garcia’s piercing glare at his opponent following a long birdie putt on the 13th hole. "It wasn't -- I don't know how to say -- it wasn't a bad thing," Garcia, in the first of what would be many chats with the media about his Tiger-related actions, says after Woods beats him by a stroke, according to Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck. "I mean, I did it with good feelings, not hoping he would make a triple bogey or whatever. I was kind of telling him: If you want to win, you have to play well."

While Woods, no doubt, takes careful note of Garcia’s post-tourney boasting that “I want to play Tiger” in the following month’s Ryder Cup, an observer might chalk this session up to nettlesome gamesmanship by Sergio and Tiger’s thin skin.

2000 -- In Y2K’s “Battle at Bighorn,” a made-for-TV exhibition, what’s billed as a friendly rivalry for the ages begins to morph into something far more toxic. Woods is front and center for Garcia’s over-the-top celebration of his meaningless victory over an exhausted, flu-ridden opponent.

2002 -- Garcia is in full whine when he moans that officials should have suspended second-round play of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black due to torrential rain. His reasoning: play would have stopped if Woods were on the course. Playing together in the final round, Woods outscores Garcia 72-74 and walks away with his second U.S. Open dub.

2006 -- Sergio brings this one on himself, arriving for the final round of the British Open attired, cap to shoes (but for his white belt) in full canary yellow. After pouncing on his prey, 67-73, Woods sends this famous text to a friend: “I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird.”

Fast forward two months, and Garcia taunts Woods by saying he wants to play him early and often in the upcoming Ryder Cup. "Fortunately for us,” Garcia asserts, “[Woods] doesn't have a great Ryder Cup record, so I'm looking forward to hopefully going out there and meeting him two or three times." This time, Garcia comes out on top. Teamed with Luke Donald, the pair grabs a 2-up victory over Woods and Jim Furyk.

May 11, 2013 -- The gloves come off at the Players' Championship, when, paired together in the third round, Garcia blames Woods for an errant stroke. Seems Tiger incited the crowd by pulling a club as Sergio prepared to hit his shot. Woods, who ends up winning his 78th PGA Tour victory as Garcia implodes, responds that Sergio complaining about something is nothing new and that a marshal told him Garcia had already hit.

May 12-15 -- Two volunteer marshals tell Sports Illustrated that Woods lied about speaking with them, which prompts another course escort to come forward in support of Tiger’s version of the story.

May 20 -- During a press conference to promote the AT&T National, Woods issues a one-word response -- “No" -- about whether he would call Garcia to patch things up. Garcia, in his first interview since The Players dust-up, says at an event hosted by sponsor TaylorMade-adidas that he’s not surprised by Woods’ remark.

“He called me a whiner. He’s probably right,” Garcia says. "But that's also probably the first thing he's told you guys that's true in 15 years. I know what he's like. You guys are finding out."

Garcia goes on about how he doesn’t have Woods’ phone number, he did nothing wrong, and the disrespect Tiger showed him at Sawgrass “has been going on for a long time ...Tiger can and will beat me a lot of times in tournaments but he's not going to step on top of me. I'm not afraid of him."

May 21 -- Garcia ignites a firestorm when, in response to a query from the emcee at a European Tour awards dinner, he lamely jokes he would have Woods over every night during the U.S. Open and serve him fried chicken -- code for one of the most offensive caricatures of African Americans.

May 22 -- Garcia offers, via the European Tour, a statement apologizing for his “silly remark” that was “in no way ... meant in a racist manner.” Tiger takes to Twitter to take Garcia to task:

Garcia holds an impromptu press conference prior to the BMW PGA Championship in England to apologize again and offer to talk to Woods face-to-face.

TaylorMade-Adidas distances itself from the embattled golfer. “Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture,” the company says in a statement. “We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.”

May 23 -- After agreeing with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem not to punish Garcia for his odious and ill-conceived attempt at humor, Euro Tour chief George O’Grady plays the “some of my best friends are ...” card, saying, in his player’s defense, that "Most of Sergio's friends are colored athletes in the United States.” The requisite form-letter apology follows, after someone points out to O’Grady that it's 2013 and that referring to African Americans as “colored” is utterly offensive.

Appropriately, in a blast from the past, Fuzzy Zoeller, the author of the original Tiger Woods/fried chicken remark back in 1997, crawls out of the woodwork to reprise his role as a buffoon, saying his Tiger fried chicken comment was “a joke gone bad.” Zoeller, whose liquor company was to sponsor the pole car in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, does not address his remark in which he called Woods “a little boy” during Tiger’s romp to his first Masters win, but says of the 37-year-old Woods and Garcia, 33 -- “Those boys will be fine.”

May 29 -- Jack Nicklaus calls Tiger-Sergio spat "stupid," and Woods says the controversy's in the rearview mirror. "It's already done with," he tells reporters ahead of this week's Memorial Tournament. "It's time to move on."

While it may be history to the protagonists, the U.S. Open will take place in two weeks in the City of Brotherly Love, home to GQ’s top-ranked "bottle-throwers" and "couch-torchers” in America as of 2011. With that in mind, Sergio may want to consider motoring around Merion in what may be his “new courtesy car,” according to “not Peter Allis”:

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