COMMENTARY | Golf fans were shocked the past few weeks to learn that current PGA champion Keegan Bradley was the target of shouts of "cheater" at several tournaments earlier this year while the futures of belly and long putters were being discussed by the USGA and the PGA Tour. Keegan used a belly putter to win the PGA and still uses one today.
Keegan was surprised and puzzled that anyone would think he would use non-conforming equipment. Chants of "cheater" were just plain wrong.
The long and belly putters are legal on the PGA Tour.
Bradley now joins a fairly elite group of golfers who have had to endure taunts and other boorish comments from golf fans during the last 50 or so years.
Gary Player needed security guards during the late-'60s and early-'70s because of death threats he received from fans upset with the politics of his home country, South Africa.
Jack Nicklaus aroused the ire of Arnie's Army as he burst onto the scene as a young professional and started knocking the extremely popular Palmer out of the winner's circle. The Golden Bear wasn't Jack's first nickname. Angry members of the Army called him "Fat Jack."
Not very welcoming. Wonder what ever happened to that Nicklaus kid?
Colin Montgomerie was so routinely and unfairly taunted and mocked by U.S. golf fans that several times in the early-2000s, he vowed to stay on the European Tour and never return to the States.
Even Tiger Woods was a target after his well-publicized divorce from wife Elin. Loutish golf fans made comments concerning Tiger's infidelity and other circumstances surrounding it. No one ever got a reaction from the unflappable Tiger, however, and as he found his form, the comments ceased.
So what about Rory?
There is a good chance over the next few weeks McIlroy may get some alcohol-fueled, mean-spirited shouts of "quitter" here and there. If that happens everyone will certainly hope that the perpetrators are found and escorted off the course with prejudice. There is no place for that type of conduct at a professional golf tournament. It just ruins the experience for everyone.
He may, however, have to endure some good-natured ribbing, which he can likely handle.
"How are you feeling, Rory? Tell us the TOOTH!"
Why are these guys so sensitive? Why don't they just ignore the few buffoons wandering the course looking to stir things up? How could Montgomerie have let sneering comments almost end his career?
It is the wonderful nature of attending a professional golf tournament. When the "QUIET" signs go up thousands of people can turn acres of grounds into an area as quiet as a church on a Monday morning. Even on television you can often hear the soft chirping of birds high in the canopy of the trees but nary a cough or throat clearing "ahem" from the respectful crowds.
That's why when that one guy who is just finishing his seventh beer shouts, "You da man!" from over by the chemical toilets it can be heard three fairways away. It's hard for the players to completely ignore, if they can ignore it at all.
That same guy at pro football game? He would be in row 36, section 212, where the only ones who would have to suffer through his inane banter would be the poor saps within 20 seats of him. The players? Wouldn't even know he was there.
It is very possible that because he is relatively young, quite affable and extremely good-natured, Rory will get more genuine support and "attaboys" than any real heckling in the next few weeks. Let's at least hope for that. And after a month or so?
Well, no one calls Nicklaus "Fat Jack" anymore, do they?
Steven Stromberg owns a 4 handicap and is a two-time club champion in Minnesota. He played college golf in the third windiest city in the nation and collects and studies vintage golf equipment and memorabilia. He is also a columnist for the Eden Prairie News, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.