AUGUSTA, Ga. - Just outside the Augusta National clubhouse Friday, Tiger Woods was speaking to a small crowd of media when Sergio Garcia, his own interviews done, walked behind Woods and genially clapped his shoulder as he passed. Woods turned and nodded an equally pleasant "Hey."
That was it. Garcia didn't leap in off the top rope and smash a chair over Woods' head, alas. Such things are not done in golf. But if they were, these two would be the ones doing them.
Woods and Garcia, playing partners in Saturday's third round of the Masters, have an icy relationship stretching back nearly two decades. The two have exchanged a few unfortunate remarks and poison-tipped witticisms, but more often they've conducted their business in the passive-aggressive style of golf since time immemorial.
As with their brief interaction on Friday afternoon, it's usually Sergio making the first move, for good or ill, and Tiger making the last. Shortly after Saturday's pairings were announced, Garcia offered up the following waddaya-gonna-do tweet:
It was gonna happen at some point sooner or later! Paired with @TigerWoods tomorrow but don't you worry guys, I'm sure we'll both be fine 😉
— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) April 11, 2015
Woods has not commented publicly. Of course, his play in majors against Garcia, even at this late date, tends to speak for itself:
Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia will tee off together an hour from now. In 8 previous rounds together in majors, Garcia has never broken par.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 11, 2015
Their rivalry dates to 1999, when Woods, already a major-winning force of nature, first encountered Garcia, a phenom whose acclaim exceeded his achievements. Playing in the PGA Championship at Medinah, Garcia very nearly defeated Woods in a round punctuated by one of the great recovery shots/celebration hops in golf history:
Woods, even at 23 already full in The World Is Mine mode, didn't much care for Garcia's antics, including some attempts at intimidation on the green. (Woods, of course, has no problem with similar greens gamesmanship of his own.)
Woods and Garcia jabbed back and forth over the next few years, primarily in regard to Ryder Cup play, the one arena where Woods appeared somewhat mortal during the 2000s. When Woods beat a yellow-clad Garcia in the 2006 Open Championship, he reportedly texted a friend, "I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird."
The Woods-Garcia rivalry really boiled over in 2013, when Garcia accused Woods of interfering with his swing at the Players' Championship by inciting the crowd. Woods insisted he thought Garcia had already swung. Garcia fired back: "I'm not going to lie, he's not my favorite guy to play with. He's not the nicest guy on tour." A few weeks later, Garcia said he'd try to make amends with Woods by serving "fried chicken," the race-laden language forcing him to issue an apology.
That particular twist to the feud forced everyone right up to Jack Nicklaus to take a side, with most trying to brush it off. Since then, there have been no major dust-ups, just the standard cool detachment. During practice rounds earlier in the week, patrons reported that as Garcia putted on one green, Woods played through, and the two did not exchange a single word.
They'll have plenty of time in one another's company on Saturday. They probably won't break out the folding chairs this round either, but there will be plenty of green ones in the gallery just in case.
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