Speaking to reporters just before last month’s Tour Championship at East Lake, Masters champion Jon Rahm expressed concern over the increase in rowdy spectators and the prospect of their gambling habits causing players to be deliberately distracted during rounds. There was an incident just a week earlier at the BMW Championship when a fan shouted “pull it” as Max Homa was hitting a putt, all because the spectator had a wager on the result.
“I feel like we hear it every single round,” said the Spaniard. “That happens way more often than you guys may hear. It’s very, very present. In golf, spectators are very close, and even if they’re not directly talking to you, they’re close enough to where if they say to their buddy, I bet you 10 bucks he’s going to miss it, you hear it. Luckily golf fans are pretty good for the most part and you’re hearing the positive, ‘I got 20 bucks you make birdie here,’ things like that. But no, it’s more often than you think. I think the tour maybe should look into it because you don’t want it to get out of hand, right?”
Worryingly, it would appear the Spaniard’s misgivings may have some negative foundation, given the interaction Robert MacIntyre had with one unruly fan Friday during the second round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
On the par-5 17th, the Scot claimed to have received “a bit of stick” from a member of the crowd, the heckling specifically related to a bet the spectator had placed on MacIntyre shooting a higher score than his playing partners, fellow Ryder Cup players Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick.
“There’s obviously gambling going on in the game of golf nowadays and some people ride a lot of money on it and, unfortunately, he [the spectator] lost today,” said a laughing MacIntyre. “He told me he wanted me to get beat by my playing partners. Then he told me the amount he had riding on it.
“I actually spoke about that to someone a few weeks ago, it might even have been Jon [Rahm] about the heckling on the PGA Tour,” he continued. “It’s all about gambling nowadays and I said to [caddie] Greg [Milne] walking to the 18th tee ‘be switched on as this guy could throw anything at us here. So keep an eye on him and do your job.’”
Happily, no such incident occurred. And MacIntyre’s 69 was good enough to see off Rose (71) and Fitzpatrick (72) and ensure the mouthy spectator had no need to make a return visit to his local bookmaker. But for golf, the warning signs are clear.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com