Tiger Woods’ welcome return to the competitive arena has come at a price. It’s brought out the mindless morons that do this great game no favours whatsoever. No wonder Rory McIlroy jokingly said he needed a “couple of Advil” to recover from playing in such an unruly environment as he was paired with Woods and Justin Thomas in the first two rounds of the Genesis Open in Los Angeles last week.
The City of Angels, of course, is full of bampots, so some of the behaviour outside the ropes as a big gallery followed that tasty group at Riviera Country Club probably comes as no real surprise, but the worrying thing is that it is becoming a common occurrence at PGA Tour events – and not just ones that involve Woods.
“I guess it’s a part of it now, unfortunately,” said Thomas, the US PGA champion, as he acknowledged that being the case. “I wish it wasn’t. I wish people didn’t think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots and play. I don’t know, I guess they just think it’s funny.
“It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting. But when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people’s swings, is just completely unacceptable really. We’re out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen. And you would just hate to have, hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”
It’s only a matter of time an event is influenced by bad behaviour from spectators and well done to Thomas, part of golf’s new wave of exciting young players, for speaking out on this matter. If it had been someone like Colin Montgomerie or Nick Faldo, they’d probably be accused of being out of touch with the modern game.
That claim certainly can’t be made against either Thomas or McIlroy, who didn’t hold back either after some of the stuff his group had to put up with over two days in California. “I don’t know, it might have been like this the whole Tigermania [the era that saw him emerge to become the game’s dominant force] with these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, he gives up half a shot a day on the field,” he said. “It’s two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around.
“Whether that calms down the more he plays and it doesn’t become such a novelty that he’s back out playing again, but it’s tiring. I need a couple Advil as I’ve got a headache after all that. It’s just the whole thing and Tiger has had to deal with that every single time he goes out to play.”
Some might say it comes with the territory when you are Woods, a sporting icon in a sports-daft country, but golf really could do without this behaviour and more needs to be done to discourage these numpties. It not be the best example due to everything about it being sanitised in comparison to most other events, but The Masters nip unnecessary shouting in the bud and it’s time similar action was taken at regular PGA Tour events.
It’s not really a problem on the European Tour, though Fridays at events in the Middle East do get a bit lively in the afternoon, when some of the comments from bars and hospitality units around courses can become a tad more colourful than the norm on that circuit.
That’s still mild in comparison, though, to what goes on at tournaments on the other side of the Atlantic and the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine should be a reminder to everyone how close fans, especially when drink has been taken, can get to crossing the line because, believe me, it was pretty hostile to the Europeans and McIlroy in particular in Minnesota.
Noise can be acceptable on a golf course. Bubba Watson, the winner in Los Angeles, showed us that when he urged the fans around the first tee at Medinah at the 2012 Ryder Cup to keep cheering as he drove off, repeating that bit of fun at Gleneagles in the same event two years later.
A bit more of that type of spontaneity would be good for the game because it was harmless and put a smile on faces, but these idiots that shout “getinthehole”, “youdaman” or really stupid stuff like “baba booey” and “mashed potato” are only interested in hearing the sound of their own voice and, at the same time, being disruptive.
Let’s not allow golf to become a playground for such people.