Friendships can be pretty shallow on the PGA Tour and petty rivalries abound. What else would you expect from a sport where teammates only exist in made-up events and it pays to be selfish? So it isn’t surprising that a fair number of players on tour aren’t exactly wildly popular with their fellow hackers. With apologies to Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Robert Allenby, Ben Crane, and Rory Sabbatini, here are our top six:
No 6: Ian Poulter
Poulter is British – and happy to play the prick. He gleefully taunts the US fans during the Ryder Cup while draining clutch putt after clutch putt after clutch putt. He sort of resembles a hyena foaming at the mouth by the time he gets to the back nine of the singles competition every other year in September. The thing is, Poulter can’t just turn off the intensity once he gets to the locker room. He has friends on the tour, but he has also beefed with everyone from Tiger Woods (broke some sort of rich guy/golfer etiquette by bumming a ride on Tiger’s jet) to Colin Montgomerie (told him to fuck off when Monty – who was captain – deigned to ask him to cheer on his teammates at the 18th green during a team competition).
No 5: Greg Norman
A tendency for landing your helicopter at events in front of gawking onlookers while the other players arrive quietly in their cars? Check.
An imperious, superior attitude despite being a choke artist on the biggest stages? Check.
Taking a plum TV job covering the US Open, proceeding to do (seemingly) zero preparation, and still expecting everyone to like you? Check.
Giving yourself a cliched nickname that you take WAYYY too seriously? Check.
Despite being off the main stage for a while now, Norman was public enemy #1 on the PGA Tour in the early 1990s (pre-Tiger), mostly for acting like he was the most important person walking the planet, and even more disturbingly, actually believing it.
No 4: Phil Mickelson
Even in a tour filled with self-pitying narcissists who believe the world revolves around them, Mickelson stands out. No one really cares if he carries a few extra pounds, except for writers like us who like to have a little fun with him. Still, he finds it necessary to “explain away” his weight issue with the following excuse:
“I’ve got subcutaneous fat. It just lies underneath the skin, as opposed to visceral fat, which lies underneath the muscle. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Even if this is true (I doubt it, but who the fuck knows), it sounds terrible. Just don’t say anything, Phil. But he can’t do that. He can’t help himself. And it constantly rubs people the wrong way.
*Phil would be higher on this list, but the same thing that drives people crazy about him also inspires a weird kind of loyalty.
No 3: Sergio Garcia
We could go over all the reasons in detail if you want: the spitting, the tantrums, the petulance, the middle finger to the fans (although other pros may like that), and the self-pity. But when you come down to it, it’s really only one person’s opinion who matters when it comes to Sergio Garcia, and he more or less speaks for everyone: Tiger Woods. Tiger absolutely despises Sergio, and only some of it is related to the racist comments he made about Eldrick back in 2013. The rest stems from Tiger’s complete lack of respect for Sergio as a competitor, the worst sin you can possibly be guilty of in his world.
No 2: Patrick Reed
Cheating is like the most verboten thing EVER to any professional golfer. It’s part of the culture of the game at any level, and when you combine that with the fact that for the most part, these guys think they’re out there curing cancer, well let’s just say it isn’t something you want to be accused of, and it isn’t something you accuse someone of lightly. In fact, you almost never hear about it. Not the case for Reed, who’s been shadowed by cheating rumors ever since a few suspicious incidents in college.
Shane Ryan wrote a great book about the PGA Tour called “Slaying the Tiger” in which he revealed those incidents and discussed them in detail, and while there is no way to truly know for sure, it’s fair to say it sounds like he cheated. Throw in an unapologetically prickly personality and a years-long (and ugly) feud with his parents, and…well…put it this way: if the PGA Tour is high school, Reed is the kid sitting by himself at lunch, convinced that he is the cool one and everyone else is a loser.
No 1: Bubba Watson
In Slaying the Tiger, Ryan appropriately shredded Bubba for being a self-pitying phony. He explains why in the interview above. Notice the blatantly obvious hostile questioning from the always-protective golf media…
And if that isn’t enough for you, or you don’t have the time to watch, this clip of Bubba publicly throwing his caddie under the bus should be enough to get the point across:
*Greg Norman photo via David Cannon/ALLSPORT