Martin Dempster: No place in golf for bottles and cans being thrown by fans

I’m probably going to be in the minority on this one, but what the hell. A line was crossed on this occasion in ‘The Coliseum’ and it can’t be allowed to happen again.

I am referring, of course, to the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, where fans congregate in their thousands during the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against people having a beer, wine or whatever when they’re enjoying a day at the golf, but how on earth can anyone condone what we witnessed over the weekend?

Reacting to a hole-in-one there by Sam Ryder in Saturday’s third round, fans threw beer cans and bottles on to the green.

Groundskeepers sweep up bottles and cans thrown from the stands on the 16th hole after a hole-in-one by Sam Ryder during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale Arizona. Picture: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images.

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The putting surface and greenside bunkers quickly looked akin to a tipping site, forcing an 11-minute delay for the mess to be cleared before Brian Harmon, one of Ryder’s playing partners, could hit his tee shot.

In a post on Twitter, Stephen Cox, the PGA Tour official on duty, wrote: “25 years in professional golf I’ve had a delay in play for situations related to weather, a gas leak, fire, medical emergency but never for excess beer cans.”

According to him, there was “no material damage to the green”, but that wasn’t the case after we witnessed the same reaction to Mexican Carlos Ortiz making a hole-in-one there in the closing circuit.

Sharing the lead at the time, Patrick Cantlay’s birdie putt was tracking nicely until it bobbled badly and ended up a couple of feet short of the hole. His ball had hit a dent on the green left by a can or bottle.

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Joel Dahmen tosses a beer in the air with his shirt off on the 16th hole during the final round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Picture: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images.

Ortiz revealed he’d been “nailed pretty hard with a beer can” and the same could easily have happened to either Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen when they fired up the fans when playing the hole on Sunday.

I’m all for seeing more characters in the game and, by all accounts, Higgs is full of fun, but I wonder how he’d have felt if he had ended up lying in hospital with a head injury.

Golf seems to be in a strange place at the moment and, though I may be wrong, it seemed as though some people felt the scenes witnessed at the weekend was some sort of boost for the PGA Tour at a time when a proposed Saudi-backed Super League has been creating lots of chatter.

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If so, that’s a bit worrying because, quite frankly, there can be no place in sport full stop for that sort of behaviour and it really needs to be nipped in the bud here and now.

We’d already watched Justin Thomas guzzling a bottle of beer and tossing it on the ground in a bid to fire up the frenzied home fans even more in last year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

To be honest, I was surprised that more wasn’t made of that, though I believe it was raised as a matter of concern by European officials, and the events on Saturday and Sunday simply cannot be allowed to be swept under the carpet.

Just imagine if a spectator, having witnessed it, felt it was okay to throw a missile on to the green at either the eighth or 11th hole on the Old Course if a player made a hole-in-one in the 150th Open St Andrews this summer.

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Yes, that’s probably an extreme example, but we appear to live these days in a copycat society and that, at times, can be a very dangerous thing.

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