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García and Woods both said things that golfers, borrowing a code from another era, used to keep private. You probably have heard it all by now, but the main point is that Sergio García basically declared that he doesn't like Tiger Woods and Tiger Woods basically described Sergio García as a crybaby. When a Golf Channel reporter asked García to assess their last-round pairings, which had them in different groups, García said, "Good for both of us—we don't enjoy each other's company."
The root of their dispute goes back to that ridiculous made-for-TV golf event from 2000 called Battle at Bighorn, when an ill Tiger lost and García, at age 20, celebrated as if he had won the California lottery. Various incidents at Ryder Cups and Tour events and majors since then have not helped. Their awkward history showed up in a misunderstanding last week that could have been avoided. It was as if they wanted a confrontation.
In the third round, on the 2nd hole, Woods hit a poor tee shot into the left trees. García hit a better tee shot, on the right side of the fairway. If the players had been communicating properly, García and Woods, or their caddies, would have established an order of play. But there was nothing like that. García, playing out of turn but not able to see Woods, was disrupted as he started his swing by a modest cheer from the woods, where a large group of spectators had surrounded Tiger, forming a human V around his ball. The cheers were a response to Woods's pulling a five-wood out of his bag, meaning that he was going to attempt an absurdly difficult recovery shot. García, after fatting his shot, turned his round chin in Woods's direction and glared.
"It's very simple," García said during an NBC interview. "You have to pay attention to what's going on because the other guy is hitting. You do something when you're in the crowd, and the crowd is going to respond."
Returning serve, Woods said, "The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot, and then I hear his comments afterward and it's not real surprising that he's complaining about something."
Well, when they heard that remark from Woods, the marshals were surprised. One of them, Gary Anderson, said on Sunday, "He didn't ask us nothing, and we didn't say nothing. We're told not to talk to the players."
Anderson's boss, John North, was the chief marshal for the first three holes. He stood over Woods's ball to protect it from the throng and was five feet away when Woods played his shot. North has worked the tournament as a volunteer marshal for 30 years, he's a graduate of the Naval Academy, he served in Vietnam, he's a FedEx pilot and he donates his round on the Stadium course for being a volunteer to the Wounded Warriors project.
"Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him," North said. "I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We're there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character."
Hours later, his workweek done, North watched the tournament on TV in a military appreciation tent. "I hate to say it, but I was rooting for him," North said of Woods. "It tears me apart. But when he's winning..."
We all know. When Tiger Woods is winning golf tournaments, it's one of the most exciting things in all of sport. It's mesmerizing. As for Tiger in this second act, he looks pretty much as he did in the first. You can say what you want about him and probably will, just as Sergio did last week. The fact remains, there's something about him that's great, however you define that word.