As far as occupational hazards go, someone yelling while you swing a golf club is pretty low stakes. As far as being an annoyance to professional players, however, unruly fans might as well be the spawn of Satan.
So when a spectator shouts while Tiger Woods is teeing off in a major tournament, it’s not unreasonable to expect the golfing legend to offer an evil stare in return while a chorus of boos rains down from his faithful fans.
Considering Woods was sitting atop the leaderboard before his playing partner Francesco Molinari surged ahead to win the British Open, the fan who disrupted Tiger’s swing on 18 may have gotten off too easy. But Woods wasn’t the only player to battle fan noise Sunday. Xander Schauffele endured a curious child on No. 17 and was forced to step away from his shot before he could even start his swing.
There are many sins on the golf course, but opening your mouth at the wrong time might be the deadliest.
It’s time for the madness to end, but what to do with those who insist on shouting at golf tournaments?
The case for shouting
Golf has always been a game of tradition, but does that mean it can’t adapt? In 2018 there are more ways to make a sound than ever before on the course. Whether it’s people shuffling in the stands or fans cheering at the next hole over, noise has become as unavoidable as it is inevitable at PGA events.
It’s time the game embraced it. Give golfers walk-up music for each hole. Allow fans to talk and enjoy the moment when a Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth stroll by. Noise isn’t the enemy here. Silence is.
It’s because golf officials demand spectators be quiet that players get frustrated by even the most innocuous sounds — like, say, a small child babbling while Schauffele is setting up for a shot. If fans were allowed to talk at normal level, maybe golfers wouldn’t be so shaken up by anything louder than a whisper whenever they are preparing to swing.
The announcers who watched Schauffele step away from his shot suggested that the small child be removed from the area. If the PGA thinks it can usher in a new generation of fans while shaming them at the same time, no one will ever bring their kids out to a tournament.
Hell, the Waste Management Phoenix Open has become a signature event for golf fans simply because of the rowdy atmosphere and relaxed rules. It’s a destination golf party. The anti-Augusta. And it works because players know what they are walking into.
By setting unreasonable expectations, by demanding that tens of thousands of fans must be neither seen nor heard while paying vast sums of money to attend tournaments, the PGA is ultimately setting itself up to be more disappointed than Tiger fans on Sundays.
The case for silence
Can people really not sit still for a few minutes at a time anymore? Do they even want to?
It’s 2018 and there are more distractions around us than ever. Being out on a golf course, taking in the elements, enjoying the pristine views and leaving the world behind is all part of what makes this sport such a treat. It’s a game of subtle adjustments and intense thought.
How can players manage any of that if their fans won’t give them a moment to concentrate?
Golfers aren’t really asking much here. They will display their absurd skills as long as they get to practice and perform their craft in an environment of their choosing. If they wanted crowd noise, they’d almost certainly ask for it. Put another way: when Tiger wants fans to cheer for him, he’ll be the first one to start the shouting.
There are countless other events where screaming and roughhousing in the stands is accepted, if not encouraged. A PGA tournament is not one of them. That’s the draw. No one is forcing you to stand on the sideline all day while the best golfers in the world parade by. All they want in return is the respect that comes with making it onto the tour.
Events like the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the exception that proves the rule. It’s the PGA equivalent of a parent who allows their teenager to throw a basement party with the promise they won’t come downstairs to check on it.
That doesn’t mean you must host a party every week and it certainly doesn’t mean you let the teenager make the rules in the house now.
Golf is what it is. Fans need to respect that or risk getting kicked out of tournaments. The fan who got the evil eye from Tiger on No. 18 at The Open gets to go home with a story for the rest of his life. Woods, on the other hand, has to go back to his job knowing someone will pull the same obnoxious stunt again next week.
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