Golf's 14 Best Rivalries
November 27, 2015
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USA vs. Europe
The Ryder Cup at first wasn't much of a rivalry, as the U.S. boasted an 18-3-1 record through 22 matches against Great Britain and Ireland. However, since the event's format was changed to America versus Europe, the latter owns a 10-7-1 mark. Always competitive -- and at times, contentious -- the biennial event is one of the best Hatfield-McCoy stories in all of sports.
Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus
Arnie was -- and still is -- the King. But when a boy from Ohio challenged his rule over golf, Palmer's reign became a divided kingdom. For nearly a decade, Palmer and Nicklaus battled each other for the game's crown. While Nicklaus eventually usurped Arnie's sovereignty, their dual helped shape, and spur, the sport's popularity.
Louise Suggs vs. Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Suggs was jealous of Babe's dominance and popularity, calling her "not a golfer; she's a showman." Suggs once refused to sign Zaharias' scorecard, disputing a drop the Babe received in 1953. Even in death, the rivalry remained: Suggs did not visit Babe in the hospital when the latter was dying of cancer, telling friends, "I decided I'm not going to be a hypocrite about this thing."
John Daly vs. Fashion
Spoiler: Fashion is getting its butt kicked.
Sam Snead vs. Ben Hogan
They were different in demeanors and approach, yet Snead and Hogan were unmatched in terms of success. Snead had a longer career while Hogan enjoyed a more dominant peak. The two often had their differences -- Hogan looking down at Snead's crass manners; Snead was misanthropic towards the public's affection for Hogan. But together the two were the faces of American golf.
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson
This battle started in the California junior ranks, with Woods reportedly jealous of the attention the older Mickelson received. Occasionally frosty at the pro ranks, the Woods vs. Mickelson rivalry was mainly one-sided, with Tiger repeatedly besting Phil. However, Mickelson eventually inserted himself on the major stages, giving the back-and-forth a second life. As the years progressed, the personal relationship between the two stars improved, a mutual respect manifesting for the other's accomplishments.
Jack Nicklaus vs. Tom Watson
Though the Golden Bear is more well-known for his rivalry with Arnold Palmer, his battles with Watson were just as fierce. Their struggle at Turnberry, known as the "Duel in the Sun," is one of golf's most legendary matches. Watson also denied Jack wins at the 1977 Masters and 1982 U.S. Open. The Nickalus-Watson face-offs were recently documented in Joe Posnanski's The Secret of Golf.
Rees Jones vs. Robert Trent Jones Jr.
The sons of famed architect Robert Trent Jones, Rees and Robert Jr. have never seen eye-to-eye. The two have battled each other on financial and legal matters, while simultaneously taking shots at each other through the media. “I don’t have dad’s name,” Rees once said. “I think it worked out well for Bobby to have dad’s name because he wanted to travel the world. It’s worked out well for me because I wanted to have my own identity.” Conversely, Robert was never fond of Rees gaining the nickname "The Open doctor."
Tommy Bolt vs. golf clubs
Bolt was a hell of a player, winning 15 times on the PGA Tour including the 1958 U.S. Open, but he's remembered for his fondness of flinging and breaking clubs after bad shots. Earning the moniker "Terrible Tommy," Bolt would later say his temper was an act, although that sounds to us like a tad bit of revisionist history.
Gene Sarazen vs. Walter Hagen
The regular wars between Sarazen and Hagen became one of American golf's first rivalries. Hagen was not fond of Sarazen for challenging his rule over the sport, while Sarazen felt Hagen never respected his talents due to his age (Hagen was 10 years older). Together, the two, along with Bobby Jones, controlled the sport in the 1920s and '30s.
Nick Faldo vs. Paul Azinger
Although Azinger was nowhere near the caliber of player as Faldo, the two developed an intense rivalry throughout the years. Starting at the 1987 British Open, where the two went shot-for-shot at Muirfield with Faldo besting Azinger by a stroke, they had numerous battles at the Ryder Cup as players and captains, and occasionally had on-air confrontations working together at ABC. "The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don't want to have anything to do with him," Azinger once said of Faldo. "He did what he did as a player, and there are relational consequences."
Tim Finchem vs. Greg Norman
The Shark has never been a fan of Finchem. Norman felt, after his World Golf Tour idea was shot down by the PGA Tour commissioner, that Finchem stole his idea with the World Golf Championships series. Norman then sued the tour to release its financial reports. After Norman was axed as Presidents Cup captain in 2013, Norman insinuated Finchem pushed for the change after Norman signed with one of the Presidents Cup sponsor's rivals.
Shooter McGavin vs. Happy Gilmore
We sympathize with Shooter; it's got to be tough to have a young gun steal your thunder. But to buy Gilmore's grandmother's house, threaten to burn it down and pee on the ashes if Happy didn't quit golf? Brutal, man.
Jordan Spieth vs. Rory McIlroy
It's in its fledging stages, but after Speith's magnificent 2015 season dosed the flames of Rory's 2014 accomplishments, you better believe Rory has something to prove in the upcoming campaign.
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