Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

The Most Intense Rivalries in Golf History

The Most Intense Rivalries in Golf History

Golf is by all means a classy sport, but like in any other competitive game, emotions have a way of flying high, sometimes creating intense rivalry. Since every golfer mostly plays as a one-person team, except in team competitions, most golf rivalries tend to be individual vs. individual, often climaxing in a classic duel. Some golfers have had friendly rivalries where they race each other to the top spot, but other times it gets fiery, and players throw jabs at each other every chance they get. Below we look at ten of the most intense rivalries in golf where players have taken bitter opposing sides and faced each other intensely.

Top Ten Most Intense Golf Rivalries

Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau

In 2019’s Dubai Desert Classic, Koepka called out Bryson for his slow play, and since then, a personal feud was born. Although Brooks’ comments had been indirect, the two started taking subtle jabs at each other and continued for about two years, setting the stage for “The Match” clash between them on November 26, 2021. In the highly-anticipated 18-hole event, Koepka emerged as the winner.

Seve Ballesteros vs. Paul Azinger

Some of the fascinating memories in Ryder Cup history have emerged from the rivalry between golfers Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger. It all started in 1989 when Azinger disputed a scuffed ball by the former on the second hole, followed by Ballesteros disputing Azinger’s final hole drop he took from the water. This event created an intense rivalry, and when the two faced off again in 1991, Ballesteros referred to the American team as “11 nice guys…. and Paul Azinger” while Azinger called his rival “the king of gamesmanship.”

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

In the early to mid-2000s, when Tiger Woods was golf’s powerhouse, Mickelson was considered his most significant competitor. The two battled it out at the 2001 Masters, meeting in the final round, where Tiger triumphed. Their famous matchup labeled the “Duel at Doral,” was at the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral, where again Woods edged out Mickelson.

Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus

Arnold Palmer was the most popular golf player in the early sixties, while Jack Nicklaus was known as the greatest. Although they were splitting up the majors against themselves and combining on runner-up finishes, they became great friends, and Nicklaus even recalls Palmer teaching him how to play craps in 1963.

Jack Nicklaus vs. Tom Watson

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have faced each other in many tight head-to-head matchups, despite Watson going pro a decade after Nicklaus. They met for 18 major championships, with the most notable in the famous “Duel in the Sun” at the 1977 Open Championship at Turnberry, Scotland. Watson had just come from beating Nicklaus at the Masters a few weeks prior, and he put on an excellent show to edge him out again.