Brennan: Raucous fans put PGA Championship in New York state of mind

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Brennan: Raucous fans put PGA Championship in New York state of mind

PGA Championship

Brennan: Raucous fans put PGA Championship in New York state of mind

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The crowds at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black are loud and raucous. And hilarious. They yell “Go Tiger” far more often than they should, considering it’s Saturday, and Tiger Woods missed the cut and isn’t here. They use their cell phones to take a thousand pictures. They roar and yell and are having a grand old time.

They could be attending a Yankees game. Or perhaps the Jets or Knicks or Islanders, if they were still in season. They are New York sports fans who happen to be at a golf tournament, a major at that, and each and every one of them would give the green jackets at Augusta National a massive headache.

Isn’t it wonderful?

The first two men’s major golf tournaments of the year are five weeks and a few light years apart. At the prim and proper Masters, cell phones must be left at home or in the car, because they are not allowed on the grounds. Even journalists must leave their phones in the press center. This very-1980s policy receives nothing but praise from the golfers, who say they love the old-school notion of fans looking at them, not their phones – not to mention the lack of interruptions from phones ringing or otherwise making noise.

It follows that the galleries at the Masters are golf-savvy and mostly polite. I didn’t hear one “You da man” last month in Augusta. But here? The “You da man” guys are drowned out by everyone else.

“Nice hat,” they yelled at leader Brooks Koepka, wearing the new and controversial vertical Nike cap.

When Tiger missed the fairway with his opening tee shot Friday and blasted it into the gallery, the roar was deafening. It was a bad shot, but they didn’t care. Tiger was coming their way, and some refused to move until security made them.

Cheering a bad shot in golf? Oh, the horror. Golfers are so sheltered from big-time sports reality that they often have trouble dealing with one pithy comment and demand the perpetrator’s ejection. Someday these pampered souls should try wearing a Michigan jersey in Columbus for an hour or so.

Then there was the moment Saturday when Daniel Berger teed off and some goofball screamed, “Burgers for all!”

Of course there was laughter. Everyone smiled. Can you imagine, happiness of this magnitude at a sporting event?

Most people in and around the game of golf probably prefer Augusta National’s sterile ways to the laissez-faire approach here this week. Not me. These New York crowds are having a ball, and their fun is infectious. They are enjoying the sunshine on a public golf course in the middle of a state park. There are little kids everywhere. Compare and contrast to the history of very private Augusta National, which until seven years ago didn’t allow women to be members.

Koepka, who has slapped palms with hundreds of New Yorkers going hole to hole this week, told CBS Saturday afternoon that he loves the atmosphere at Bethpage Black. “It feels,” he said, “like a real sporting event.”

He’s right. If golf is going to survive and thrive in the future, this is exactly the audience it needs, selfies and all.

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