5 Best Golf Rivalries In PGA Tour History

Phil OscarsonContributor IIIJune 11, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 15:  (L-R) Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States look on from the 14th hole during the second round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Golf isn’t really a contact sport. But even though players don’t have to worry about being tackled while they line up their putt, some pretty bitter rivalries have been nurtured on those picturesque fairways.


For instance, take the hurt feelings that have recently developed between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. Apparently, Tiger pulled a club from his bag at the wrong time, and his cheering fans interrupted Garcia’s swing. The ball ball was sent far off to the right into the trees. The two then engaged in a passive-aggressive battle of indirect statements and inferred insults, culminating in some sort of racially charged comment involving “fried chicken.” In honor of this most recent war of words, we bring to you the five most interesting rivalries in golf. For guys that don’t even have to carry their own bags, you’d think they’d be a little bit more relaxed.



1. Rees Jones vs. Robert T. Jones Jr.


Sometimes the most heated conflicts are the ones that develop within families. Take Rees Jones and Robert Jones Jr. — the two sons of legendary architect and course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. They were always competitive with each other while growing up but, as they’ve matured, their rivalry has only managed to remain childish and petty. Their dad wanted nothing more than to see them reconcile, but that doesn’t look like it’s ever going to happen. Lawsuits over the use of their deceased father’s name have turned this family tiff into a court centered legal battle. Way to respect your dad’s memory, gentleman.   



2. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson


You kind of need to feel bad for Mickelson. He’s a great golfer, and if he had come to the game during any different era, he would have dominated it. But like Salieri’s mediocrity forever eclipsed by Mozart’s genius, Mickelson just couldn’t compare to the force of nature that was Tiger’s entrance into golf. The resentment eventually manifested itself, with Phil making rude comments about Tiger’s equipment and Woods responding in kind. Eventually, both golfers were able to put on their big-boy pants and come to an understanding. After all, they now share a common enemy: time.



3. Colin Montgomerie vs. Pretty much everyone


He throws food, tells off fans, antagonizes fellow golfers and sometimes even lets his fists do the talking. Colin Montgomerie is like the belligerent, drunk uncle that nobody is excited to see at the family reunion.



4. Vijay Singh vs. Pretty much everyone else


Sometimes things get said in the heat of the moment, or words get misinterpreted. That’s completely understandable. However, sometimes you’ll get someone who is just a jerk. Vijay Singh, despite his talent on the course, just can’t seem to play nice. He’s been involved in bad drama with Tiger Woods (Again? Jeez Tiger, maybe it’s you), Annika Sorenstam and Phil Mickelson. His rivalries aren’t limited to other golfers either, he’s also had issues with the PGA Tour, which slapped him with a suspension for using Deer Antler Spray — a controversial substance that has recently been under scrutiny by the World Anti Doping League. Later, the PGA reconsidered the ban, but the damage had been done, and Vijay figured he could best express his unhappiness through the ancient art of lawsuit. To recap, he knowingly broke one of the tour rules and managed to avoid being punished for it — you’d think that would have been enough to make him happy.



5. Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus


There was a time when competition could still be gentlemanly. After all, graciousness and class can be expressed just as easily in victory as in defeat. Consider Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Palmer had taken it upon himself to act as a mentor to the younger and less experienced Nicklaus. However, once Jack’s hard work and natural talent began to pay off, he surged past his teacher and became a real threat to Arnold’s superiority. Their rivalry lasted for decades, but at no point did it ever become immature or embarrassing. In the words of Jack Nicklaus, “I think Arnold and I are adversarial friends or friendly enemies.” The two legends always kept it professional, and their respect for each other never wavered.


You can follow Phil Oscarson at @philoscarson or read more of his posts at GolfZing.com.