The Golf Grudge Matches We Want To See
SPORT needs rivalries. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. And a bit of spice between them only adds to the appeal in the eyes of the public.
Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka have been behaving like a pair of bickering children for more than two years now so there is huge anticipation about their forthcoming Match, when they will go head to head over 12 holes. Everybody will have their favourite but the real winner will be charity. Deep down, I imagine that most of us would want to see them coming to blows but I can’t help but wonder if this whole rivalry is nothing but a massive publicity stunt.
However, it did get us thinking about other grudge matches the public would like to see.
Tiger Woods v Phil Mickelson
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
The first edition of The Match brought the pair together in 2018. Woods had broken Mickelson’s heart on countless occasions during their playing careers. And when they were paired together by US captain Hal Sutton at Oakland Hills in 2004 the chemistry between the pair was non-existent, especially when Mickelson hit a wild slice on the 18th hole in the foursomes. Tiger’s face was a picture. The real pity about The Match was that this encounter happened when both were long past their prime. The media tried to hype it up but the reality was that we were watching two 40-something golfers and nobody really cared about the outcome.
Nick Faldo v Sergio Garcia
Faldo is one of the worst captains Europe’s Ryder Cup team has had. He oversaw matters at Valhalla in 2008, when Paul Azinger’s US team enjoyed a comfortable victory. Unbelievably, the six-time major champion latter singled out Garcia for special criticism, describing his contribution as ‘lousy’ and ‘useless’. Garcia has overtaken Faldo as the Ryder Cup’s record scorer. His verdict on the Englishman? “It is an honour to have surpassed so many legends of the European game, so many great players. And Nick Faldo.” It is fair to say that Faldo does not feature on the Spaniard’s Christmas card list.
Nick Faldo v Sandy Lyle
When Faldo and Lyle were starting out on their playing careers they were paired together in a tournament. On a bright and sunny day, Lyle struggled with glare bouncing off the top of his putter head. So he took matters into his own hands and put some tape over the club. Faldo said nothing to the Scot. Instead, he waited until he came off the 18th green, sought out a rules official and reported Lyle for breaking the rules. Lyle was disqualified. And was not impressed with Faldo. It only fired up his determination. And, of course, he took great delight in winning both The Open and The Masters before Faldo.
Sam Torrance v Tom Lehman
When Justin Leonard holed that 50-foot putt in his Ryder Cup singles match against Jose Maria Olazabal at Brookline in 1999, Tom Lehman led the invasion of the 17th green. Torrance, who was one of Europe’s vice-captains, was livid. In the aftermath. “It is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen,” said Torrance. “And he claims to be a man of God. His behaviour today was disgusting.”
Seve Ballesteros v Paul Azinger
Ballesteros and Azinger were both pretty feisty characters and very nearly came to blows during the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, after which the Spaniard referred to the US team as “11 nice guys and Paul Azinger”. It all began two years earlier at The Belfry when they faced one another in the singles. Seve told Azinger he had damaged his golf ball and intended to change it. Azinger demanded to see the ball, disagreed that it was damaged and told Seve he couldn’t change it. Fast forward two years and Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were playing Azinger and Chip Beck in the foursomes. Three down at the turn, Seve challenged Azinger, accusing him and Beck of changing the compression of the ball they’d used at the seventh, which was a breach of the rules. The Americans denied it but were so upset that they lost the plot and the Spaniards won 2&1.
Colin Montgomerie v US Galleries
Poor old Monty was constantly picked on by US golf fans. At the 1999 Ryder Cup, Montgomerie’s father walked off the course because he was so upset at the abuse being hurled at his son. And his opponent, Payne Stewart, admonished the gallery before eventually conceding his singles match to the Scot. So wouldn’t you just love to have seen Monty in his prime going head to head with an overweight, beer-swilling American 28-handicapper?
Dottie Pepper v Sherri Steinhauer
When you are working as an on-course reporter one of the first things you learn is to switch off your microphone when you are not on air. At the 2007 Solheim Cup, Dottie Pepper forgot that rule and was heard to describe Steinhauer as a “choking freaking dog”. What made this all the more remarkable was that Pepper and Steinhauer are both Americans! Pepper apologised but Steinhauer was not impressed. Some years earlier, she had also screamed: “Yes!” when her opponent, Laura Davies, missed a putt. When asked later about her sportsmanship (or lack of it), Pepper said” “I don’t really care.” So take your pick - Pepper v Steinhauer or Pepper v Britain’s best ever woman golfer - and a person not to be trifled with.
Let us know which head-to-head encounters (past and present) that you would most want to see!
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