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Issue of October 22, 2014

Read Ross
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Read Ross
County government gives beat writer Ross Schulz so much to write about, it can't ALL possibly fit in the newspaper, so we've made room here for that and whatever else he wants to blog about.

Woods, Garcia heat up golf season

June 05, 2013 | 10:37 AM

The 2013 PGA Tour season isn't even halfway complete, and it's already become one of the most interesting seasons to follow that I can remember.

There's the story of Tiger Woods trying to win his first major since his greatest major victory in 2008 on one leg in the U.S. Open in 91 holes against gamer Rocco Mediate, all the while chasing Jack Nicklaus' all-time majors record; Woods' illegal drop story at the Masters and subsequent questionable one at The Players; the erratic play of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson; and, of course, the latest feud with old rivals Woods and Sergio Garcia.

The Garcia-Woods rivalry hit a new high, or low, last week when Garcia's quick-witted response to a Golf Channel question included serving fried chicken to Woods each night during the U.S. Open in June.

Woods later tweeted that the comment was inappropriate and hurtful, but he was ready to move on from The Players Championship, where Garcia and Woods went toe-to-toe on and off the course.

Garcia blamed Woods for an errant shot when the two were paired together on Saturday, May 11, of the tournament, and Woods called Garcia a whiner. Woods is probably right about the whiner part, Garcia said, then going on to needle Woods by saying that's about the only accurate thing he has told the media the last 15 years.

On May 12, Garcia was in great position to have a shot to beat or tie Woods before dumping two in the water on the famed 17th at TPC at Sawgrass.

Garcia — considered one of if not the best player yet to win a major championship — is playing well of late, which makes things even more interesting, because Woods is obviously playing well, possibly on his way to the best year of his career. A career that has had a little success, for those who didn't know.

The next time the two will cross paths, hopefully, at least, will be at the U.S. Open June 13 through 16 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

Garcia received a warm welcome at his first event since making the fried chicken comment in England on the European Tour. Don't expect the welcome to be quite as warm in the U.S. Garcia's been the target of American fans before, also at a U.S. Open, when he re-gripped his club 20-plus times before each shot.

Some fans have called Woods a cheater, and some have called Garcia a racist, so we could have the racist vs. the cheater for the U.S. Open. Enticing headline as it is, neither title fits either player. I'd prefer El NiŮo vs. El Tigre.

I watch the "Feherty Show" on a regular basis (must-watch TV), and one episode featured Garcia and, after watching that, I have no doubt there's nothing racist about Garcia. And only the most ardent Woods' detractors would seriously believe he's a cheater. He's not.

There is no love lost, however, between the two; instead, there's genuine dislike.

How enticing would it be to see Garcia and Woods playing well in the final group together on the weekend? Throw in McIlroy, Mickelson and maybe Rickie Fowler; talk about must-see TV.

The interest level will be at an all-time high in the majors the rest of the way this year and next, which includes the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville. It's just a shame a racial comment helped peak that interest.

Speaking of the PGA Championship at Valhalla, the way Woods is playing right now, there's a good chance he could secure three majors before Valhalla and come to Louisville with the chance to tie Nicklaus' all-time majors record (Valhalla is a Nicklaus-designed course), the only record Woods has chased since writing it above his bed as a child. That would make for a spectacular week for Valhalla and Louisville, a course that has seen the Americans' only Ryder Cup win in the last 14 years and also one of Woods' best battles for a major in the 2000 PGA Championship.

As long as Woods is involved, professional golf will have its hero and villain.

All of Woods' potential rivals have fallen by the way side and not been able to keep pace, including a young Garcia, David Duval, Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and the list goes on.

Mickelson is the closest thing to a competitive rival for Woods, and McIlroy looks like the best option going forward (both have had more major success in the last five years than Woods). But maybe Garcia, still only in his early 30s, is ready to give it another go.

Who are you rooting for?

Ross Schulz


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