Rory McIlroy: No room in golf for abuse from spectators
The four-time major winner was speaking about the behaviour of some spectators towards Bryson DeChambeau as a result of his public spat this year with fellow American Brooks Koepka.
On Sunday, after DeChambeau had lost in a play-off at the BMW Championship in Baltimore, a fan shouted “Brooksie” in his face, prompting an angry response from the 2020 US Open champion.
That led Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, to say on Tuesday that spectators repeating such an action in this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta will be ejected on the grounds of harassment.
As the chairman of the tour’s Player Advisory Council, it was no surprise to hear McIlroy endorsing a fan code of conduct policy, but, as always, he offered an excellent summary of the DeChambeau situation.
“I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I don't think that you should be ostracised or criticised for being different, and I think we have all known from the start that Bryson is different. He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts and everyone has a right to do that,” said McIlroy.
Speaking on the eve of the tour’s season-ending event in Georgia, where the winner will walk away with $15 million, he added: “There are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself. I'm not saying that he's completely blameless in this.
“But, at the same time, I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late and it's actually pretty sad to see because, deep down, I think he is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be.
“I would say it's pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now. I think he's trying to become better and he's trying to learn from his mistakes and I think everyone should give him a chance to try to do that.”
While one of the most popular players in the game, McIlroy was the target for abuse by one fan during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, with the culprit being ejected after the Northern Irishman confronted him.
“Yeah, I do, a little bit,” said McIlroy in reply to being asked if he felt that golf fans had become a bit less respectful in recent years.
“I think some of it crosses the line. I think certain other sports culture has fed into our game and fed into the fan base that's definitely affected it, and people will make the argument that, well, it happens in every other sport.
“But I would say that we're not any other sport and I think golf should hold itself to a higher standard. I mean, the players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn't our fan base be?
“There's no room in golf for people to abuse someone on the golf course when all they're trying to do is do their best and win a golf tournament and follow their dreams.”
Patrick Cantlay, who beat DeChambeau in that play-off last weekend, apportioned part of the blame for the mood of some people outside the ropes on the tour’s Player Impact Programme, a $40 million bonus scheme designed to reward players who drive fan and sponsor engagement.
“I think when you have people that go for attention-seeking manoeuvres, you leave yourself potentially open to having the wrong type of attention, and I think maybe that's where we're at and it may be a symptom of going for too much attention,” said Cantlay.
“But it can be awesome, too, because if you succeed and you act perfect all the time and you do the perfect things all the time, and then you also go for the right attention-seeking moves, you get like double bonus points because everyone loves you and you're on the perfect side of it.
“I think it's just a very live by the sword, die by the sword type of deal. And when you leave it to a jury, you don't know what's going to happen. So it's hard to get all 12 people on a jury on your side.
“If you're playing professional golf on the stage that you're playing on and 98 percent of the people are pulling for you and there are 10,000 people on the green, I don't know, what does that leave, 20 people that don't like you, even if 98 percent of the people like you?
“And, if those 20 people have had enough to drink or feel emboldened enough to say something because they want to impress the girl they're standing next to, then, yeah, like, you're in trouble. Like, people are going to say bad things.”
The world No 4 added: “I think golf shouldn't let that happen. I think the Masters is a great example of a place that doesn't let that happen, and it's the greatest place to watch and play professional golf because of the atmosphere they create.
“I think if you look at the history of the game and you look at the respect that underlies the entirety of the history of the game, we shouldn't tolerate it, and we shouldn't celebrate that. We should celebrate the fan that is respectful and pulls for their side.”
A message from the Editor:
Get a year of unlimited access to all of The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis, exclusive interviews, live blogs, and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.