6 of the Best "Almost Rivalries" in Golf

Mike DudurichContributor IAugust 24, 2012

6 of the Best "Almost Rivalries" in Golf

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    Golf fans know of the great rivalries from the history of the game:

    Jack Nicklaus-Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus-Tom Watson, Ben Hogan-Sam Snead, Tom Kite-Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods-Vijay Singh,Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson.

    But there are also some "almost rivalries," ones that are good in their own right, but for whatever reason aren't quite in that legendary class.

    Some are in this category because of wins and losses—what has happened on the golf course.

    Others have nothing to do with on-course stuff at all.

    Check out six of the best "almost-rivalries" that we've seen.

Padraig Harrington vs. Sergio Garcia

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    These two regularly play in the same European and PGA Tour events and have also been members on the same Ryder Cup teams.

    They have also competed against each other in the Seve Cup, an event in which players from Great Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe participate.

    Their "almost-rivalry stems from a mysterious incident at one of those competitions and was intensified at the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie when the two golfers passed each other on a bridge between holes and walked by silently with their heads down.

    Then this week in the opening round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Garcia threw gasoline on the fire by saying, via The New York Daily News, that if he were the European Ryder Cup captain, he would not make Harrington a captain’s choice.

Arnold Palmer vs. Ken Venturi

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    These two never really had much of an on-the-course rivalry. Palmer was on the PGA Tour 62 times, Venturi 15. Palmer won seven majors, Venturi one. The "almost-rivalry" came about as a result of an incident at the 1958 Masters.

    In the final round, Palmer’s tee shot at the famous 12th was embedded behind the green. He asked a rules official if he was permitted relief from that condition but was told no.

    He announced that he was going to drop a second ball and play both until that official’s ruling was verified or thrown out. Venturi maintains that Palmer never announced that intention.

    Palmer made a double bogey with the embedded ball and was on par with the second. He was told a couple of holes later that he was entitled to relief and went on to win by a shot.

    Venturi continues to seeth about the incident 54 years later.

Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy

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    This one does not qualify for a real-live rivalry… yet.

    Until McIlroy wins a few more tournaments and contends in a few more events, he’s a guy who has boatloads of potential that remains largely untapped.

    As for Tiger, his status in the golf hierarchy remains somewhat unsettled. Who knows if he has the game in order for there to be a true rivalry between the two.

    But if the pair gets to closer to the top of the game, this rivalry could be tremendous..

Colin Montgomerie vs. Sandy Lyle

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    From across the deep, blue sea, a pair of Scots, Sandy Lyle and Colin Montgomerie, have a simmering feud that’s becoming long in the tooth.

    Over the course of their careers, Lyle won 30 professional tournaments, including one major, while Montgomerie totaled 40 wins but never won a major.

    The frostiness of their relationship came as a result of Lyle accusing of Montgomerie of cheating in a 2005 event in Jakarta.

    Montgomerie allegedly took an illegal drop after a rain delay but was not penalized by tournament officials.

    He did, however, donate his fourth-place winnings to charity.

Rory Sabbatini vs. Ben Crane

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    This "almost rivalry" had almost nothing to do with scores or wins and losses.

    But it had plenty to do with what happened on the golf course.

    While playing in the Booz Allen Classic in 2005, the pairing was put on the clock.

    Both players caught up by the 17th hole and were off the clock. When Sabbatini hit his approach into the water, he walked behind the green and prepared to make his drop before Crane could hit his approach shot.

    Sabbatini was almost directly behind the flag and stood there waiting for Crane to play. As soon as Crane's ball stopped moving, Sabbatini dropped, played his chip, walked onto the green, marked his ball and then put his ball down and putted it.

    He then walked to the 18th tee before Crane finished. He was booed and booed again as he approached the 18th green (where Crane birdied from 50 feet away, and Sabbatini managed to two-putt).

Paul Azinger vs. Nick Faldo

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    These two have faced each other in tournaments, in Ryder Cups and in Ryder Cup captaincies and have even shared time in a few broadcast booths.

    And while Faldo is in the Hall of Fame and has many more career victories than Azinger, (40 to 18), an "almost rivlary" is boiling and is made up of words rather than deeds.

    Faldo had a way with words, a way that aggravated the bejesus out Azinger.

    He used those words several times, including in some Ryder Cup battles, but Azinger got the last laugh when he captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team to a win over Europe at Valhalla in 2008.