Ranking the 10 Most Polarizing Players in Golf Today

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Polarizing Players in Golf Today

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    They can't all be fan favorites. Neither can the players on the PGA Tour all be unrepentant jerks. With this ranking of the most polarizing players on the PGA Tour, we're looking at a list of golfers who stoke fans' passions, both positively and negatively. 

    To the real question on readers' minds: Is there any club-swinger more polarizing than Loudmouth Golf poster child John Daly?

    You'll have to read on to find out the answer to that question and to see who else makes the list. 

10. Rory Sabbatini

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    What His Fans Say: This is a stretch, because Sabo's fans aren't many, but we can assume they say the South African golfer is really a good guy who's just misunderstood. That, and he's always entertaining on the golf course. And his belts are cool...

     

    What His Haters Say: Amy Sabbatini, Rory's ex-wife, put her former husband on blast on Twitter last year, saying he "had too many extracurricular activities with other women." He's had numerous run-ins with other pros and even verbally assaulted a 16-year-old volunteer, according to Stephanie Wei

     

    Why He's Here: If this were a "jerks on tour" list, Sabbatini would be near the top. However, he occupies the 10th spot because of the flimsiness of his support weighed against the vitriol of his haters. 

9. Kevin Na

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What His Fans Say: In short, they say, "Kevin Na is worth the wait." More specifically, they wear T-shirts bearing that message. A group of Na supporters donned the shirts after the golfer was heckled at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Widely regarded as one of the slowest players on tour and possessing a bizarre inability to pull the trigger when standing over the ball, Na tries fans' patience. He was heckled mercilessly during a round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year for his snail-like pace of play. 

     

    Why He's Here: Na's support isn't strong. Like Sabbatini, he's not so much divisive (although there is support on both sides) as he is disliked. He has a little more support than Sabo, so he edges him out for the ninth spot. 

8. Vijay Singh

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    What His Fans Say: Vijay Singh's supporters likely admire the man's legendary work ethic. They would certainly point to the fact that Singh is friendly enough to golfers he likes and merely doesn't care for the media and certain other professionals. "He's private," they might say. "Like Ben Hogan was."

     

    What His Haters Say: Singh's detractors likely reference the 1985 cheating incident at the Indonesian Open, in which Singh fudged his score by a stroke to make the cut. They'd likely follow the relation of the Indonesian Open incident with any number of tales of the Fijian's prickly behavior. 

     

    Why He's Here: With Mr. Singh, we have another golfer who is more hated than loved. The fact that the golfer is more reviled than the preceding entries on this list earns him the eighth spot. 

7. Patrick Reed

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    What His Fans Say: Patrick Reed's supporters surely peg the golfer as confident rather than cocky and point to the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as supremely self-assured golfers. They likely feel that the degree of self-belief Reed possesses is necessary to perform at the highest level.

     

    What His Haters Say: Reed haters likely weren't amused by the golfer's comments about his own ability. For them, even though Reed has won twice on tour recently, he is still a blowhard who ought to let his clubs do the talking.

     

    Why He's Here: Fans are more evenly divided about young Mr. Reed than any of the other entries thus far. Also, as he's only been on tour for two years, there has been less of an opportunity to calcify opinion on either side. 

6. Ian Poulter

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    What His Fans Say: It's a safe bet that the majority of Ian Poulter's fans are across the pond, where his Ferrari-loving peacock routine plays a bit better. Assuredly, they love Poulter's seemingly endless stream of inane tweets, and he does have 1.69 million followers, making him one of the most popular golfers on Twitter. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Poulter's detractors certainly don't have much patience for his plaid pants and his spiky hair, and they're likely not placing any orders with IJP Design. They'd also likely point to his history of inane remarks and tweets, such as when he suggested that he and Tiger Woods were the top two golfers in the world. 

     

    Why He's Here: Poulter lovers and Poulter haters are many, and he assuredly has more supporters than Kevin Na and Vijay Singh, making him more divisive than Misters Singh and Na (Reed, too). 

5. Bubba Watson

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    What His Fans Say: Bubba Watson is just what golf needs, his supporters must feel. He's fun and engaging, and stunts like his hovercraft golf cart are just what the boring and bland game of golf needs. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Watson is annoying and arrogant in detractors' minds, and there is a disconnect between his commercial persona and the actual golfer. The actual golfer, they'd likely contend, is a caddy-berating jerk

     

    Why He's Here: We're entering a portion of this list where there are a lot of passionate parties in both the "hating" and "loving" camps. Watson has more fans and more detractors than the preceding golfers, thus his inclusion in the fifth spot. 

4. Phil Mickelson

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    What His Fans Say: In watching the video above, the Phil Phaithful likely see a devoted family man finally triumphing after years of finishing second. They see Phil jumping for joy with the boyish enthusiasm for the game that makes him so endearing and hugging his best friend in the world, caddy Bones.

     

    What His Haters Say: Haters likely see a man with little vertical leap celebrating like the faux "man of the people" he is before heading off to Vegas to buy another $10,000 belt and gamble his winnings. 

     

    Why He's Here: Mickelson, long a tragic figure, is both reviled and revered. It seemed for a long time that anyone who was anti-Tiger was necessarily pro-Phil and that anyone who was pro-Tiger was anti-Phil. He's here because of the link to Tiger and the fact that he is by far the second-best golfer in the last decade behind Woods.

3. Sergio Garcia

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    What His Fans Say: Sergio Garcia must be well-loved in his native Spain, and Europeans surely worship the Spaniard and his 16-8-4 Ryder Cup record. Right? It's really impossible to believe anyone who roots for Europe in the Ryder cup has anything bad to say about Garcia, and that's a lot of people. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Nobody says it better than Tony Manfred in his piece for Business Insider on why Americans hate Sergio Garcia. If you need a list of reasons, Manfred's is definitive (and full of videos).

     

    Why He's Here: See above. One country (USA) essentially hates him. One continent (Europe) loves him. That's one divisive golfer. 

2. John Daly

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    What His Fans Say: Long John's fans are many, and surely they feel the bleach-blond, Loudmouth pant-wearing Daly is an entertaining infusion of life in the buttoned-up world of professional golf. Daly is the patron saint of fans for whom hitting golf shots is merely an interruption between swigs of beer in the golf cart. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Daly isn't exactly an establishment figure. That is, he's not quite the successor to Bobby Jones. Daly's detractors likely object to his occasional crass behavior, his appearance and the video above. 

     

    Why He's Here: Since he won the 1991 PGA Championship, Daly has seemingly been a folk hero to some and an annoyance to others. Both camps have had nearly 25 years to entrench themselves, so battle lines have been drawn. No golfer has been more polarizing in recent memory than J.D. Well, except for the next guy...

1. Tiger Woods

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    What His Fans Say: "Tiger Woods!" is what his fans yell, to be precise. Woods is still golf's only transcendent superstar, and there is nothing more exciting in the game than this golfer in contention on the weekend. 

     

    What His Haters Say: Woods' detractors are many. Prior to 2009, most criticisms centered around his on-course temper tantrums and his perceived arrogance, but the golfer gave haters new ammunition with his massive regime of infidelity.  

     

    Why He's Here: There is no golfer both as passionately revered and as despised as Woods. It's because of the passion his supporters and detractors feel and the way he is an element of popular culture at large (as no other golfer on this list is) that Woods earns the top spot here.