Golf is known for being a "gentleman’s game," and the sport’s tradition has been passed down in many families for generations. There’s just something special about a father taking his son to the links for the first time with the sounds of birds chirping in the background paired with the smell of freshly cut grass. Watching the sport on television also has plenty of upsides, and the quiet claps, smooth greens, and crisp sound of the club hitting the ball are enough to fill any golf enthusiast with excitement, especially when the event comes on a special day like Masters Sunday.
More often than not, these superstar athletes are calm, cool, and collected in their interviews. However, there have been a few occasions when they simply lost it on the reporter — making for a viral moment that will be with them for the rest of their career (they can thank social media and YouTube for that). The simple fact that golfers can lose their composure proves that maybe Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore wasn’t 100% inaccurate in his portrayal of a hockey player-turned-pro-golfer. While none of the golfers on this list have gotten in a fight with Bob Barker, their tantrums made for good television. Keep scrolling to take a look at times golfers fired back at reporters on TV, over social media, and in print.
Justin Thomas didn’t want to talk about his grandfather
Justin Thomas is one of the top golfers in the world, which is to say he’s found a lot of success hitting the links. A lot of success, and a lot of money: He won the TPC Sawgrass at The Players Championship on March 14, 2021, earning him a single payout of $2.7 million.
Following his victory, a visibly emotional Thomas talked with Steve Sands of the Golf Channel about the win and how much it meant to him, especially after losing his grandfather, who died the month before. When Sands asked Thomas if he felt his late family member was with him during the tournament, the golfer fought back tears as he shared that believed "a lot" of his grandfather was there that day. According to Golf Magic, Thomas apparently confronted Sands after the interview. "You had to do that to me, didn’t you?" Thomas reportedly asked. Many fans also took to social media to express their dismay over Sands’ question.
On February 8, 2021, Thomas paid tribute to his beloved grandfather on Instagram. "Heaven got a good one yesterday. Wish you were still here to tell me how many putts I missed on days like yesterday! Nobody’s voice would make me happier when I would hear it over the phone," Thomas wrote. "Will love and miss you, G Pa."
Phil Mickelson’s two witty interviews
There have been at least two occasions when Phil Mickelson mixed a little bit of sass with sarcasm. The first came in 2008. In a YouTube video that fans have viewed more than 191,000 times, 1920’s reporter Scoops Callahan (yes, that’s his name) was interviewing Mickelson at the Charles Schwab Challenge. As Golf recounted, Mickelson had a heck of a victory "when he birdied the 72nd hole to win by one shot." Callahan was one of the first reporters to ask Mickelson about the achievement, and all hilarity and awkwardness ensued. "Champ, champ!" Callahan shouted. "Was the key to winning today’s tournament bringing out the old Billy Baroo and sinking those putts like a Tommy gun on Valentine’s Day?"
"Why are you yelling? You’re a foot from me," Mickelson quipped. Even after being called out, Callahan seemed unfazed and continued with the interview like business as usual. For those at home keeping score, Callahan’s question did indeed include a reference to Caddyshack and the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Mickelson was also part of another attention-grabbing interview in 2012. In the clip, the golfer chatted with the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands about the "dumba** questions" he has been asked over the years. Mickelson told Sands that a reporter once asked him if he was "looking forward to Augusta" — yes, as in the Masters Tournament, one of the biggest events the sport has to offer. "What kind of dumba** question is that?" the golf great laughed.
Tiger Woods shut down questions about his personal life
One thing is for sure, Tiger Woods has never loved inquiries about his life outside of golf, especially ones surrounding his failed marriage to Elin Nordegren. In June 2010, Woods sat down for a press conference before the start of the US Open. According to Mercury News, most of the questions reporters asked were golf-related — "most" being the operative word. "On the basis that all our professional lives, all our professional lives, are affected by our personal lives, can you tell us if you’ve got any resolution one way or the other with Elin yet?" the reporter asked. The golf legend responded, "That’s none of your business."
That’s not the only time that the five-time Masters champion has put a reporter in their place. As noted by Sports Casting, another awkward moment happened during a 2020 press conference held prior to the PNC Championship in Orlando, where Tiger played with his son, Charlie Woods. Several questions surrounded the famous father/son duo, but one question about what was in his son’s room did not sit well with the golfer. "I’m not going to say what’s in his bedroom. That’s private…" he said before he was interrupted by the reporter, who tried to push further to no avail. "I’m not going there," Tiger replied. "Thank you."
Note to reporters: Don’t ask Woods personal questions if you want to stay in his good graces.
Brooks Koepka would rather not wear a mic, thanks
Brooks Koepka is usually candid in his interviews though sometimes his confidence can be confused with cockiness. The golfer usually doesn’t hold back when it comes to hard-hitting topics and his feud with Dustin Johnson has made plenty of headlines. He also won’t mince words when it comes to microphones. In June 2020, Golf reported that Koepka kept it blunt when "asked if he had any thoughts on the mic’d-up debate." As the outlet noted, when the question of whether or not golfers should wear a microphone while playing came up, Koepka made it quite clear that he is not a fan.
"Yeah, I do. I don’t understand why they want us to wear a mic when there’s a boom mic that stands ten feet away from every shot that I hit," he said (via Golf). "If the announcers would just shut up and listen, you could hear every word that we’re talking about. I don’t understand what the thing is." Koepka didn’t stop there. "Half the time, the lady’s holding a boom mic, and she’s listening to everything we’re saying all the way down," he added. "If they would just shut up, they could hear everything."
While fans normally love hearing athletes thoughts in the middle of competition, we think it’s safe to say that Koepka will not be choosing to wear one anytime in the near future.
Bryson DeChambeau slammed ‘slow play’ question
Like Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau seems to have a love/hate relationship with the press. The golfer, who many think has a "slow playing style," went off about the topic in an August 2019 interview. According to National Club Golfer, DeChambeau interrupted a reporter, saying, "But I’ll tell you that it’s really kind of unfortunate the way it’s perceived because there’s a lot of other guys that take a lot of time. They don’t talk about this matter and for me personally, it is an attack and it is something that is not me whatsoever." He added that he isn’t usually bothered by the press, but the commentary surrounding the pace of his game has been rubbing him the wrong way.
DeChambeau fired back at critics again in another video, as noted by Golf Channel. "Y’all can say whatever you want, but we’re having a f***ing awesome time," he said. "So screw all y’all haters, no big deal. I still love you all, even though you hate me."
And then there was the time when, according to Golf Channel, the golfer apparently confronted a cameraman who followed him on the green when he was marking his ball. "He was literally watching me the whole entire way up after getting out of the bunker, walking up next to the green," DeChambeau reportedly said of the encounter. "And I just was like, ‘Sir, what is the need to watch me that long?’" The worst part? He scored a bogey.
Tiger Woods sailed past question about the Navy
Yes, we have Tiger Woods on the list again, and to be honest, we could probably find a few more instances where he’s tangled with reporters. In a video that CNN uploaded in March 2012, Tiger Woods fielded questions about The Big Miss, a book that was written by his former swing coach. However, Woods didn’t feel the need to answer journalists’ questions about the book, as he felt the material was good and covered by the text.
When one reporter asked about Woods seriously thinking about stepping away from the links to join the Navy SEALs, the golfer interjected and said that he’s "already talked about everything." The interviewer kept pushing, adding, "I must have missed you answering that question."
Woods had enough. "Well, I already commented on the book. Is that in the book?" he asked before someone else suggested they move along. Woods also shot a cold stare at the reporter and let out an icy chuckle. If looks could kill, he’d be a goner. As CNN reporter Jeanne Moos said, "When Tiger Woods eyes you with the same intensity that he usually reserves for a golf ball, you better duck!"
Rory McIlroy took to Twitter to rip a reporter
Rory McIlroy has had a few slips-ups during his golf career, but the superstar has never had a problem speaking his mind. For one thing, the golfer once took to social media to come to the defense of his caddy. According to Bleacher Report, the back-and-forth came about when Golf Channel analyst Jay Townsend criticized McIlroy’s course management during the 2011 Irish Open. "McIlroy’s course management was shocking," Townsend said in a since-deleted tweet. He continued to write that it was "some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under ten boys’ golf competition."
McIlroy did not appreciate the harsh words against himself and his caddy, J.P. Fitzgerald, and he quickly shot back on Twitter. "@JayATownsend shut up… You’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!" he tweeted, before reiterating the fact that he stands by his caddy. According to ESPN, McIlroy also addressed the feud with reporters afterward. "He’s been having a go at J.P. every now and again and this was the first time I’ve responded — it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he shared. McIlroy also revealed that he blocked Townsend on Twitter. Talk about sending a message!
Sergio Garcia’s wife, Angela Garcia, slammed Rich Lerner
While Sergio Garcia is outspoken in his own right, so is his wife, Angela Garcia. She took to social media to square off against Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner. It all began when Lerner joked on social media about the name of the couple’s unborn child. "Sergio won’t be naming his next kid Firethorn," he tweeted during The Masters in 2018. That year, Sergio had trouble on the 15th hole at Augusta, which is named "Firethorn." As many know, Angela and Sergio famously named their daughter "Azalea" after the 13th hole at Augusta, which is why Lerner made the joke. The comment caught Angela’s eye, and she fired back. "Hey @RichLernerGC, the next time you decide to tweet about my future child, why don’t you use your brain and not do it? Don’t be an idiot. @GolfChannel," she tweeted.
Lerner was quick to apologize in another tweet, saying that he "missed the mark" with his comment and meant no "ill intent." Angela accepted his apology and let Twitter know it. "Thank you for your apology, @RichLernerGC," she wrote. "I always appreciate a good sense of humor and a good joke, but when you reference a player’s family it’s not appropriate. If people really thought about it they might agree. All good and we can move on." It’s nice to see at least one feud end on a good note.
Pat Perez penned an essay about the media
Golfer Pat Perez took pen to paper to fire back at the press after he caught some heat for saying "[Tiger Woods] knows he can’t beat anybody" on his SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show (via Golf Digest). Unsurprisingly, this comment got a lot of attention, but the guy who Bleacher Report put at the top of their "10 shortest tempers on the PGA Tour Today" list didn’t back down. Rather, he defended himself, stating that there’s more to him than the snarky remark. In 2017, he penned a lengthy piece for The Players’ Tribune titled, "You Don’t Know Me." "The media often condense my entire career into a couple of moments," Perez wrote. "That stuff used to infuriate me."
The golfer went on to say that he is not going to change the person that he is because of a misconception. "Some of you may think that I’m a jerk," Perez added. "But what I am is a straight shooter. My whole career — my whole life — has been packed into three or four moments, when there’s really so much more to it." Perez also shared that while he doesn’t feel the need to win everyone over, but he did feel the need to set the record straight.
We’re guessing that this will not be the last time that Perez speaks his truth.
Patrick Reed vs. the coin-wielding cameraman
Patrick Reed is another one of the more controversial figures in the sport, a person the Orlando Sentinel called "golf’s hated heel." Fellow Georgia alum Kevin Kisner told Golf Digest in 2018 that Reed wasn’t exactly well-liked when he played in college, either. Unsurprisingly, the pro has not been shy about speaking his mind to reporters on and off the course, and he also has no qualms about getting testy with a cameraman.
In a viral August 2018 YouTube video that has been viewed more than 300,000 times, Reed got angry with the cameraman for pointing at him after he was rattling change in his pocket. "Well, thank you, stop," Reed said in the exchange. "You know what, no. I need y’all to go over there on that side of the green. Go. I need the camera guy, too, since he’s part of ya. Sorry." The golfer then jingled coins in his own pocket and said, "He lost privileges by going like that with change." Reed stopped play until he got his way, telling the crew he wouldn’t resume until they "get the heck out of here."
A word for the wise: Whatever you do, make sure to clear out any and all change from your pockets before you are set to cover Reed during a tournament.