Aside from arguments about whether or not Brooks Koepka is boring (pro tip: he’s not), the topic generating the most conversation at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black last weekend was the decorum of metropolitan New York golf fans.
From a player perspective, I heard relatively few complaints, although I supposed it depends on which player one is talking about. For example, Phil (The People’s Choice) Mickelson, to paraphrase a statement once made by the current occupant in the White House, could stab someone on the Black Course’s 5th tee and still be cheered. Lefty’s final round found himself in various sectors of Nassau County, yet each shot was greeted with an extreme level of appreciation or sympathy by the hoards.
And while Harold Varner III afterwards expressed disdain for fans screaming “DJ, DJ!” directly at fellow competitor Koepka while Dustin Johnson was making his final 9 move on Sunday, Brooks, as is his inclination, shrugged off the episode, stating “I don’t blame them. I was half-choking anyway.”
But there was plenty of social media commentary from respected golf journalists regarding the crowd, and some concerns expressed for what could happen when Bethpage hosts the 2024 Ryder Cup. CBSSports Golf write Kyle Porter put it best in the following tweet:
Me on Monday: Bethpage for the Ryder Cup with Phil as captain is going to be the sporting event of the decade!
Me on Sunday: They should not host a Ryder Cup within 100 miles of Bethpage.
ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, who is occasionally heard on the No Laying Up podcast and does a hilarious Gary Player impression, chimed in with this:
Here is my PGA prediction and you can bookmark it: By the end of Saturday the nasty behavior of the crowd will become “a thing” and we’ll end up fighting about it, with allegations of snowflakes and golf snobs and Long Island jerks being lobbed about like grenades.
Interestingly, the one sports columnist who was not put off by the fans at Bethpage was one Christine Brennan of USA Today, to whom former Washington Post colleague Tony Kornhieser affectionately refers as “Aunt Bea.” Ms Brennan, who typically can find offense in the most innocuous of actions (she is the only person on Twitter who has ever blocked me for the sin of criticizing her for a piece she wrote in which she called Fred Funk “sexist” for donning a skirt when Anika Sorenstam outdrove him in a Skins Game some years back), felt that the Long Island galleries were “fun” and “golf shouldn’t be so stuffy.” I wonder how far from the press tent she wandered.
Aunt Bea’s feelings notwithstanding, the fear in 2024 (particularly from the European Team and its backers) is that if normally hospitable Minnesotans can act like bozos during the 2016 Cup (one spectator was removed when he told Rory McIlroy to “suck a dick”), one can only imagine what will happen when the Euro contingent tries to sing “Ole, Ole, Ole” after Sergio and Jon Rahm knock off Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas.
Golf fans attending Tour events on this side of the pond have grown increasingly boorish with each passing year, and the Tour has more or less left it up to the players to inform security to remove fans (McIlroy and Justin Thomas have done so in the past, the latter was criticized for being “soft”). This is crazy, not to mention unacceptable. Most tournaments these days have “drink tents” set up for people to imbibe with wide screen TV’s in which to follow the action. I don’t know how much expense the Tour devotes to crowd control, but whatever is currently allocated doesn’t seem to be working. It needs to improve.