I’m a huge proponent of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and it’s rowdy 16th hole. Love it, and until recently thought it was great for the game; the Yang to Augusta National’s Ying. But it seems, as is the case in many aspects of life, we can’t have nice things. The facts are, the collective ‘we’ don’t seem to be able to handle the responsibility of golf gallery etiquette and decorum.
The Mashed Potato movement is not new by any means. And maybe I am an old cynic now, but it seems to be getting worse. And to put a finer point on it, it seems daily there are ‘fans’ (code for people who are half-drunk attending a golf tournament) who want to be on TV by attempting to yell something clever at the moment of impact.
My first thought…why aren’t they simply removed from the premises at the first hint of inappropriate behavior? Failure to do so really sanctions the behavior and allows people the freedom and flexibility to push that line until they’re 8 beers deep and they can’t walk that line anymore and act like an ass. Facts are, we know for certainty that Augusta National or The Open Championship would not condone behavior like that. But pick any week on the PGA Tour and, well, as they say it only takes one.
The fact that events like the first tee at the Ryder Cup (likely all 18 holes) and the annual tour stop in Phoenix are loud and boisterous is fine. These are events which, like Augusta really, are unique unto themselves. But on a routine tour stop can we not have some clear level of appropriate behavior adhered to? Here are some ideas to eliminate inappropriate behavior from golf:
The PGA Tour needs to take a lead on a code of conduct policy which needs to be marketed, promoted and ingrained for every patron of every event. And central to these are the following:
· A strict limit on alcohol consumption. Find a way. It’s not rocket science. Address all issues of excessive intoxication quickly and professionally.
· Immediate removal from any patron who yells at any point in the swing. This does not preclude people from celebrating great shots whatsoever.
· Ban those who can’t abide by the rules from any future tour event.
I need to emphasize that these ideas would still allow Phoenix to be Phoenix and Augusta to be Augusta. What it does is not allow the people who want to be famous from impeding players’ shots and my viewing experience at home.
Because, in my opinion, if we do nothing about this, we’re essentially sanctioning this kind of behavior and I don’t think that is good for the game and it is horrible for professional golf, with potential implications that are enormous. To be honest, I am at the point where I am glad that fans didn’t have a direct and negative impact on the final round of the Valspar this weekend. My expectations are that low now. And that’s not good.