We had a great development in sports over the weekend. Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia did for golf what Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan once did for figure skating.
Images can change so fast. The PGA Tour is no longer merely a parade of boring thirty-somethings with vanilla personalities in logo shirts, smiling a lot while hitting little white balls over perfectly manicured landscape.
Now, we have Tiger in the red corner and Sergio in the blue.
Bob Arum has to be goose-bumpy. Anger, hate and public whining are the cornerstones of boxing. Also, cauliflower ears. Tiger and Sergio are ready. Picture the two, standing face-to-face in one of those phony boxing poses, Tiger shaking a nine-iron and Sergio brandishing a wedge.
Arum would call this matchup: “Two Big Swingers.” OK, so Tiger might have a problem with that.
This is manna from heaven for a sport that gets little attention from the younger set. They want fast. Golf goes slow.
Tim Finchem is the commissioner of the tour, but you can almost feel the groundswell to bring on Vince McMahon. Also, instead of some volunteer codger announcing the players on the first tree, we’ll now get Michael Buffer, telling the players to get ready to rumble.
Here’s hoping you weren’t watching something dull and soft this weekend, like baseball. You would have missed Tiger and Sergio.
Saturday, at the prestigious Players Championship in Florida, Sergio was about to hit a shot when his playing partner, Tiger, 50 yards away in some trees, decided to use a fairway wood for his second shot on the par-five second hole. He went to his bag and when he removed the club, the gallery oohed and aahed. That was in the middle of Sergio’s pre-shot routine, and he botched the shot. Pro basketball players can shoot free throws while 20,000 fans scream and curse at them, but rattle a candy wrapper a quarter mile away during a golfer’s backswing and be forever haunted by the ghost of Ben Hogan.
Sergio blamed Tiger for causing the noise. Tiger sniffed that Sergio was just whining again.
Somewhere in Las Vegas, Arum sat straight up in his chair. Guys from other sports, where there are real hits, suddenly had new respect. Zack Greinke, a Woods fan, reportedly said, “Hey, Sergio. Grab a bat and crowd the plate.” Ed Reed, a Garcia fan, told somebody who told somebody else who put it on their Facebook page, “Hey Tiger. Run a buttonhook in front of me. Just one.”
NASCAR, seeing a great chance to boost TV ratings, called each player immediately. Not to ask them to drive, just to be there for the weekly post-race fist fight. NASCAR said it needs new people, because Tony Stewart is getting tired.
The Golf Channel was agog. Its audience share soared to .00107. Frank Nobilo said that the combatants didn’t have to like each other, but they did “respect” each other. That ever-feisty contrarian, Brandel Chamblee, fired back, “Are you sure?”
Ooooooooh. Fighting words.
Tiger and Sergio didn’t get to play together Sunday for the Grand Showdown. Yes, this matchup deserved capital letters. The rules of the draw paired them with other players. Before the round, Sergio said that was probably better, confirming the obvious, that the two really don’t like each other.
To know that, he said, “You don’t need to be a rocket engineer.”
Nor would you need to be a rocket scientist to expect that, one of these times, the (golf) gloves will come off.
Tiger got a unanimous decision in this first fight by winning the tournament. Sergio stayed on his stool for the last two rounds. After his two tee shots found the water on No. 17, he needed a cut man more than a caddie.
Sergio fans should not despair, however. Word is that he will be ready next time, maybe even on a stage as big as next month’s U.S. Open in Pennsylvania. He’ll be doing some road work, hitting the heavy bag, studying films of Ali’s rope-a-dope.
Also, he may replace his regular caddie with the legendary Ms. Harding, who will help him load his bag before each round with 13 golf clubs and a tire iron.