Ranking the 10 Most Arrogant Golfers of All Time

Richard Leivenberg@@richiemarketingContributor IIIJuly 11, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Arrogant Golfers of All Time

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    A certain amount of arrogance is expected, maybe even appreciated, on the field of play.

    It surely doesn’t have to be a negative although many times it is an attitude accompanied by snobbery, disdain and the disparagement of teammates and competitors alike.

    Think of the great baseball pitchers, a lá Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan, who stared down their opposing batters in an effort to put them off guard, or basketball players, like LeBron James or Kevin Garnett, who slam dunks in the faces of their opponents with righteous indignation and an inevitable sneer.

    Golfers strut their stuff in different but no less strident ways.

    They may point to a ball as it curls its way to the cup, rising jubilant with a fist pump as it falls in.

    They may assert their superiority by disdaining their fans or by openly criticizing their opponents and ridiculing them in the media. Often times, they don’t talk to the media at all because they are above it all.

    Oddly enough, their overbearing and presumptuous manner can simultaneously turn them into some of the most off-putting people on the planet and the most admired.

    Herein is ranking of the most arrogant golfers to have crossed the fairway.

10. Sergio Garcia

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    A brash Sergio Garcia literally leapt into our collective consciousness at the 1999 PGA Championship when he closed his eyes and curved a shot around a tree trunk onto the green.

    As the ball moved into the air, a jubilant Garcia sprinted wildly, scissor-kicking with delight over the result.

    He eventually finished second to Woods in the tournament setting up a potential long-term rivalry between the two.

    Over the years, Garcia gradually lost favor with fans and competitors alike with his never-ending waggle and unorthodox swing. He annoyingly gripped, released and re-gripped his club as he pondered a shot.

    While he has since eliminated the habit, he has said unapologetically, "My swing works for me, so why should I change it? I prefer to have a natural swing and play well rather than a perfect swing and not be able to play good."

    Although Garcia has been considered a top world golfer, the rivalry with Tiger never really transpired.

    Instead, Garcia’s brashness turned to stupidity with his unstoppable desire to say whatever was on his mind. When he commented that he would serve Tiger Woods fried chicken for dinner at the U.S. Open, he leapt into something more undesirable than a waggle.

    That would have been enough to seal his fate, but he just wouldn’t stop talking about it.

    "The problem is, I'm one of the guys that has to say something," Garcia said to Fox News this past May.  "A lot of people think about it, but don't want to say anything."

    Ironically, Sergio had singled out Tiger as arrogant and aloof. Yet, it takes a pretty self-consumed guy to think he can get away with making thoughtless statements in an effort to be funny.

9. Phil Mickelson

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    It could just be a case of jealousy, but Phil Mickelson, great golfer, great family man, great signer of autographs, has actually been called an arrogant phony at times.

    In fact, a 2006 GQ Magazine poll listed Mickelson eighth on a list of the “Ten Most Hated Athletes” behind notable jerks like Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens. 

    There are a lot of anonymous comments about Mickelson but his public record seems to fly in the face of them. He made news just recently when he went to his daughter’s eighth grade graduation one day before the start of the U.S. Open. His personal fight with an arthritic condition and his public show of love for his wife who battled breast cancer has endeared him to the public.

    Of course there was that little “tax” thing. A noted conservative, Mickelson said he would “make drastic changes” in his life following federal and California state tax increases. Loyal tax payers were not happy with a rich guy who was looking to avoid paying them.

    The only real cockiness Mickelson shows is on the golf course where he has repeatedly overreached himself at crucial times in a tournament. For a guy who has won so many times on the tour and will be regarded as perhaps the greatest left-handed player ever, Mickelson is probably known more for his ability to wrest defeat from the jaws of success.

    He did it most recently at the U.S. Open, allowing Justin Rose to win his first major. He did it most notably at Winged Foot in 2006 where he let slip a chance to win his third straight major.

    “The thought of hitting a 3-wood just never crossed my mind,” he said.

    Love him or hate him, Mickelson will probably continue to invoke the cry, “Don’t pull out the driver!”

8. Rory Sabbatini

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    Rory Sabbatini may be the epitome of the jerkiest form of arrogance.

    In 2005, he admonished Ben Crane for his slow play.

    In 2007, he challenged Tiger Woods to a fight. Well, not a fistfight, but told the best player in the world to “pick up his game."

    The cocky South African started a feud with Woods (what has Tiger ever done to these guys?) during the Tournament Players Championship.

    “I want Tiger," he said. "I want him to pick it up this week and we will be there late Sunday. He’s more beatable than ever.”

    That same year, Sabbatini’s pompous attitude led to the distinction of being voted Sports Illustrated's least favorite playing partner on a tour.

    In 2011, he berated a teenage volunteer at Riviera and then engaged in a yelling match with Sean O’Hair.

    The words “jerk” and “superior” have often been used to describe Sabbatini who responded to questions about the O’Hair incident and a possible suspension with, “Comment on what? Those crazy rumors going around? Well, I’m playing this week, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. OK guys?”

    Whatever you say, Rory.

7. David Duvall

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    Tactless, cocky and media-shy, David Duval never took his success very well.

    In 1999, he was considered one of the best in the game and actually usurped Tiger Woods as No. 1 player in the world.

    But, Duval came across as suspicious of those who wanted to talk with him about his victories, yet was way too candid in interviews.

    He was at once over-confident and condescending, two attributes that assuredly did not help him when the bottom fell out.

    Nor did it help that he hid behind those Oakley wraparound sunglasses or that he put on an exorbitant amount of weight.

    Although he has dropped the weight and added a beard, Duval has missed every cut in events he has entered this year.

    He went from No. 1 in the world to virtually off the tour and no one seemed to miss him or his attitude.

6. Ben Hogan

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    As great a player as he was, Ben Hogan was also considered arrogant and aloof both on and off the course.

    Driven by his obsession to excel, Hogan was the anti-Arnold Palmer, who, despite his overwhelming accomplishments, was unable to capture the hearts of golf fans.

    He was one of those athletes who wanted success so badly he shunned the world around him.

    It wasn’t until he made his courageous return from a horrific car accident to win the U.S. Open in 1950 that he gained the admiration of not just golf fans but people around the world.

5. Fuzzy Zoeller

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    Fuzzy Zoeller may be the worst that golf has to offer.

    When asked what a young Tiger Woods would serve at the Masters annual Champions Dinner after his first win in 1997, Zoeller ruefully remarked, “Tell Woods not to serve fried chicken next year."

    As he left, Zoeller made it even worse by adding, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."  

     Zoeller’s unconscionable remark speaks for itself as a reflection of spiteful and arrogant man who could not fathom the success of someone unlike him.

4. Ian Poulter

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    Ian Poulter is as loud as his pants and twice as annoying.

    You just want to wipe that smirk off of his face, don’t you?

    Poulter may be all smiles when things are going right as they only seem to be when he is playing for his Ryder Cup team.  Yes, he has won 12 and lost three of his matches over the years as part of the European team, but he is one of those blustery, in-your-face winners to whom graciousness is a foreign act.

    He has been known to be curt to fans and media alike. He has attacked Tiger Woods on Twitter and, like a few others on this list, took aim at the perennial No. 1 player when he told GolfWorld UK, “The trouble is I don’t rate anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”

    Sorry Ian, but that’ll never happen.

3. Vijay Singh

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    Vijay? Arrogant?

    How else can you characterize someone who pled ignorance to the advantages of using deer antler spray, a form of steroid alternative, to gain a competitive edge?

    “I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance,” he explained to The Telegraph in May. “And am angry that I have put myself in this position.” 

    What position was that, Vijay? Being above it all? Hello, Lance Armstrong!

    By the way, Singh was cited for cheating early in his career for altering his scorecard and was eventually suspended by the Asian tour

    Some might say he was equally haughty when he came out against women playing on the men’s tour. Singh adamantly opposed Annika Sorenstam’s entry into a men’s event.

    ''I hope she misses the cut,'' Singh said in USAToday after his runner-up finish at the Wachovia Championship. ''Why? Because she doesn't belong out here.'' 

    Singh may be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but he should surely not be a spokesman for the sport.

2. Jack Nicklaus

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    To call Jack Nicklaus arrogant would be somewhat misleading.

    Let’s say self-assured, fearless and all-knowing instead.

    No one, save the next guy on the list, ever approached a shot with as much self-confidence.

    His was the arrogance of never doubting that he would win.

    Thus, there was never any question that he was always the best player on the golf course.

    Call it what you will, but Nicklaus is still the leader in major wins with 18 and, when he played, was the most feared competitor in the field regardless if he was facing Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Tom Watson or Johnny Miller.

    Perhaps the closest he came to arrogance was a statement made in 1960 at the early age of 20 when he said, "Jones is the greatest golfer who ever lived and probably ever will live. That's my goal. Bobby Jones. It's the only goal."

    And Tom Weiskopf said it best about the ever-confident but never over-confident Nicklaus: “Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew Jack was going to beat you. And Jack knew that you knew that he was going to beat you."

    Winning, it turns out, is the best form of arrogance.

1. Tiger Woods

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    One thing is certain: Tiger Woods is the most arrogant golfer and perhaps the most arrogant athlete ever.

    On the course, Woo has become famous as the man who twirls his club after a shot he likes, who points to his ball as it travels to the cup in an all-knowing manner that he will make it and who is synonymous with an exuberant fist pump after holing a clutch shot.

    Off the course, he is the noted womanizer who arrogantly cheated on his wife while destroying his public image as a loyal family man. Remember, he was so controlling that he would not let wife Elin Nordegren smile when he won. 

    Former coach Hank Haney wrote in his book that in an effort to get people to like him, Woods wears his injuries like an “athletic badge of honor”. 

    He has been admonished by fans, fellow players and the media, which he tries to control and often disdains with curt answers and a forced smile.

    It is no wonder he has turned to Twitter, a form of communication he can control.

    For someone who has made a fortune from golf and thus the spotlight it affords him, he continues to be uptight and pompous when dealing with the press. He might as well just flip them off rather than fake another answer.

    Yet, like Jack Nicklaus before him, he seeks to be the best and in being the best he knows he has to approach every shot with intensity and superiority.

    Not unlike Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and LeBron James, Woods has used his arrogance to benefit.