19th hole: Time to drop hammer on boorish fan behavior

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 04: Fans watch the action on the 11th hole during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, at TPC Scottsdale on February 4, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) Chris Condon/PGA Tour

19th hole: Time to drop hammer on boorish fan behavior

19th Hole

19th hole: Time to drop hammer on boorish fan behavior

It’s hard to avoid Golf Bro these days. He’s at every PGA Tour event, usually carrying more beer than brain cells, and always possessed of a garrulous self-regard while destitute of self-awareness.

If you’re not fortunate enough to attend a tournament to hear Golf Bro holler his witticisms in person, fear not, for he pollutes the airwaves as enthusiastically he does the fairways. When did you last enjoy a broadcast without shots being punctuated with cries of “Baba Booey” or “Mashed Potato?” Those well-worn phrases are seemingly akin to reciting Shakespeare for the sloshed.

Don’t care for it? Deal with it. Golf Bro paid for his ticket so he can be part of the show, even if he spends more time slouched against the ropes than a Floyd Mayweather victim.

Now, let’s hear another apology from Golf Pro for overreacting to Golf Bro having a little fun. Damn softies.

The PGA Tour is in the throes of an obnoxious Twitter-fication – the phenomenon in which a person feels entitled to fling vitriol at anyone within his field of vision, anywhere, anytime, with no consequences. Golf Bro sees that as part of his admission price. And if a player objects to this beer-battered banter – as Justin Thomas did at last week’s Honda Classic, when he had a “fan” ejected – the social media firing squad stands alert.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Justin Thomas of the United States plays his second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the 2018 Honda Classic on The Champions Course at PGA National on February 22, 2018 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Justin Thomas had a spectator tossed from the Honda Classic and later apologized for doing it. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

Thomas was ripped for booting a Bro at PGA National. The keyboard warriors didn’t care that it wasn’t an isolated incident. The underlying message was this: Dealing with jerks is the cost of doing business for Thomas and every other Tour pro. A chastened Thomas apologized the following day and said he overreacted.

And that was the most disappointing part of the episode, because if an apology was due, it surely wasn’t due from Justin Thomas.

It is a failure on the part of the PGA Tour and tournament organizers that players are forced to take action against these slobbering boors who think their slurred belligerence is an essential part of the viewing experience. They are a cancer on the sport, and responsibility for cutting it out rests with the Tour and individual tournaments.

“I’ve never seen it worse,” said a TV announcer friend who walked the first two rounds of last month’s Genesis Open in Los Angeles with Thomas, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. On the eighth hole during the first round a spectator yelled in the middle of Tiger’s backswing. Another lubricated chap rode the ropes for the entire length of the next hole bellowing at Thomas, “Roll Tide! Roll Tide! Hey Justin, Roll Tide!”

My announcer pal looked balefully at Joe LaCava, Tiger’s caddie.

“Every day,” Joe sighed. “Every day.”

An argument often mounted for players saying nothing is that once the Bros know you’ll react then they’ll keep poking you. Exhibit ‘A’ for this theory: Colin Montgomerie, long a favored piñata for pinheads. Except Monty actively listened for the sound of a wasp whispering two fields away so he could harrumph and glower moodily. That was his personality. It’s different if the wasp is trailing him for 18 holes with a bad attitude and a Bud Light.

Plus, many of the Monty episodes happened at Ryder Cups, when team and national passions are inflamed. The same hardly can be said of a quiet Thursday morning at Riviera Country Club.

The inaction can’t continue.

Erecting signs reminding fans to be respectful wouldn’t hurt, though that’s just stating the obvious for most spectators who are there to enjoy the game. But Golf Bro doesn’t read so well through beer goggles. It’s time tournaments started investing some of that ample revenue from alcohol sales to hire more security. Signage can stand as the first warning, but at the first dribble of drool on Golf Bro’s chin, show him the gate.

For having one spectator ejected, Thomas was lambasted on social media by the same types who consider the Waste Management Phoenix Open to be the template for what golf needs to engage fans. I asked the Scottsdale Police Department about this year’s WMPO. There were 71 arrests and 213 ejections that week, 160 at the “Bird’s Nest” 16th hole alone. Drunks … Disorderly conduct … Assault … DUI … They’ve got it all.

If you’re looking for Patient Zero in this disease afflicting golf, look to Phoenix, an event that enables and celebrates Golf Bro’s particular contributions. Perhaps other tournaments should just send the bill for increased security to TPC Scottsdale. One day’s beer sales ought to cover it. Gwk

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