Fan behavior at PGA Tour events is a hot topic these days.
There was the guy who yelled in the middle of Tiger Woods’ putting stroke at the Farmers Insurance Open. Justin Thomas had a fan ejected at the Honda Classic and Rory McIlroy suggested at Bay Hill that stricter alcohol sales might be a solution.
Billy Horschel, one of the more outspoken players on Tour, gave several opinions on this topic when he appeared on the Playing Through Podcast this week. Horschel said fans don’t usually cross the line with him, as McIlroy claims one spectator did by shouting his wife’s name throughout the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Horschel also said he might take matters into his own hands if he had to deal with a similar situation.
“No one has said anything personal to me,” Horschel said. “I told the Tour, listen, if someone says something personal to me about my family that crosses the line, we’re gonna have an incident on our hands. Then you guys may take it seriously. I said, we’re one incident away from a player going into the crowd a little bit and handling a situation that has crossed the line.”
We’ve heard of situations where players have nearly come to blows with fans and we saw what happened when someone threw a beer at Ron Artest at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, sparking a full-on melee with fans and players.
Any similar incidents would obviously be a nightmare for the Tour, and Horschel said they know it’s a problem and are working to address it. His preferred method in dealing with unruly onlookers is good-natured smack talk, especially when it comes to college athletics. Horschel is a 2009 Florida graduate and huge Gators fan.
“I sort of chime back at fans. They think it’s pretty funny that I’m sort of chiming back, so they give me a little bit less of a hard time,” Horschel said. “If a Tennessee guy says, ‘Go Vols,’ I say 11-1. You guys got a lot of (guts) to say ‘Go Vols’ to me when you’ve only beaten us once in the past 12 years. If someone says ‘Go Noles’ to me, I can’t say anything because they’ve kicked our ass in football and basketball.”
Horschel said he didn’t think limiting alcohol sales would solve most of the issues, suggesting the Tour should invest in more security workers on each hole to police the crowd. Overall, he just wants a little respect at the workplace.
“There’s a lot that needs to be figured out and I think the tournaments and the PGA Tour are trying to do everything they can to figure out what’s the best way to go about it,” Horschel said. “All players can agree we love fans. We want as many fans out there as possible. We want them to be excited, we want them to have the energy to cheer everybody on, but at the same time we just ask for a little bit of respect and certain times and to not do anything personal, because that’s just out of line in our opinion.”