No place for heckling in golf

By Randall MellMay 14, 2012, 7:18 pm

Kevin Na took the brunt of the abuse Sunday at The Players Championship, but the game got abused, too.

The heckling was over the top, with drunken fans bellowing for Na to “pull the trigger” and with others singing “Na Na Na Na, hey hey hey, goodbye” when he rinsed his tee shot at the 13th hole.

Heckling is almost a fan’s right in most sports, but it’s necessarily different in golf, and it must remain different despite the mainstream sentiment that golf would be immensely more popular if fans had a larger and rowdier say.

Booing and heckling are a more accepted part of the fan culture in football, baseball and basketball, but the jeering doesn’t typically affect a competition’s outcome. That’s where golf is different. Given the nature of the game, a heckling fan’s ability to dictate an outcome is drastically more substantial.


Video: Na talks about fan reaction


A well-placed heckle is like a gust of 40-mph wind in golf.

Covering Doral a number of years ago, I asked Paul Azinger on the driving range what he thought of a heckling incident Davis Love III faced playing Tiger Woods at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Azinger loves the atmosphere of Ryder Cups, but his answer was classic. He said a heckling fan in golf is the equivalent of a fan in football reaching out with his leg to trip a player running up the sideline toward the end zone.

“The golf swing takes about a second and a half to make, and in that second and a half about 30 things run through your mind,” Azinger said. “That's how fast your mind works. If during that second and a half something happens, as minuscule as a camera click, or a horn going off, or somebody coughing or saying something, it's going to throw off the process.”

I don’t know about you, but if I’m paying to see a tournament, I want to see the world’s best players dictating the outcome, not some idiot fan with a belly full of booze.

Yeah, golf’s endured this before, at Ryder Cups, at U.S. Opens with Colin Montgomerie being heckled as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” but every time sport's barbarians feel like they’re at the gate of golf, the game's devoted followers need to remind us why the gates should remain closed.

Really, if Tiger Woods gets to 17 major championship wins, do you want to see a well-timed heckle influence his shot at history? Woods can be affected. We saw it Thursday at The Players when he barked at a fan for taking a cell phone photo in his backswing. We heard Woods warn that such fan interference can affect outcomes.

There’s the larger issue of sportsmanship, too. It’s in sad decay in a society that’s becoming less civil.

“Manners are more important than laws,” British statesman Edmund Burke once wrote. “Upon them in a great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex and soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in ... They aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.”

Sportsmanship is civility’s first cousin.

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, once told me sportsmanship creates the atmosphere in which two competitors can draw out the best in each other.

“The word competition comes from a Latin root, competere, which means to strive together,” Josephson said. “That's the old version, the historic Olympic version, where you literally respect and honor your opponent, because you’re both giving your best to truly test your athletic ability to see who is fastest or more skilled. There is a nobility about competition.'

Olympic competition was meant to move man toward excellence, toward elevating the best in his nature.

“A true sportsman wants to play against his best competition on his competition’s best day,” Josephson said. “You literally respect and honor your opponent. Today, more and more people are engaged in sport as entertainment and business, where there’s a profit mentality ... Even in amateur sports, it’s all about winning, not competing

“If we lose the true meaning of sport, we just have another form of business, where everything becomes a highly manipulated entertainment process, where the extreme example is pro wrestling.”

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Phil eyes Augusta after third straight top-6 finish

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 11:54 pm

LOS ANGELES – For the third straight Sunday, a valiant back-nine charge came up just short for Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson began the final round of the Genesis Open five shots off the lead, but after a chip-in birdie on No. 12 he got within a shot of Bubba Watson. With the leaders a few holes behind him, he continued to press and his aggressive approaches into Nos. 15 and 16 both led to bogeys that effectively ended his chances to win for the first time since 2013.

Mickelson’s closing 3-under 68 ultimately left him in a tie for sixth, four shots behind Watson. It comes on the heels of a runner-up finish last week at Pebble Beach and a T-5 finish the week before that in Phoenix, marking the first time since 2007 that Mickelson has strung together three straight top-6 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


“My game’s on the upswing,” Mickelson said. “I’m playing well enough to compete week in and week out now, and now it’s just a matter of a shot here or there, the difference between winning and not, as opposed to kind of finding my game. I’m not searching anymore.”

Mickelson added that he has seen “significant” progress in both putting and driving, two areas of concern he addressed in the offseason. But as the season’s first major continues to draw near, he believes that turning top-10s into a victory is critical to his chances at a fourth green jacket.

“I think it will be important for me, if I want to go into Augusta with the expectation of winning again, that I win before then,” Mickelson said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But I think that that would be a big thing for momentum, because you need to perform under the gun, in the clutch, and play well enough to win a tournament before you expect to win a major.”

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Watson wins at Riviera for third time

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 11:35 pm

Bubba Watson holed a bunker shot midway through the back nine Sunday on his way to a 2-under 69 and a two-stroke victory in the Genesis Open. Here's the plot lines of Watson's third victory in the PGA Tour's Los Angeles stop:

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-12), Kevin Na (-10), Tony Finau (-10), Scott Stallings (-9), Patrick Cantlay (-9)

What it means: This is the third time Watson has won at Riviera Country Club, following victories in 2014 and 2016. It's his 10th PGA Tour win and his first since he won at Riviera two years ago. After a shaky, three-bogey, two-birdie front nine, he settled down - helped by his prodigious length - to make three birdies on the back with no dropped shots.


Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


Round of the day: Adam Hadwin shot his second consecutive 5-under-par 66. Only a second-round 74 kept him from being squarely in the mix.

Best of the rest: Jordan Spieth shot a final-round 67 to finish tied for ninth.

Biggest disappointment: Graeme McDowell was just two shots off the lead after 54 holes, seeking his first win since 2015, but he closed with a 77 and fell 23 spots.

Shot of the day: Watson's bunker hole-out from 16 yards at the par-3 14th. It gave him a two-stroke cushion over Cantlay.

Quote of the day: "It means a lot. My goal has always been to get 10 wins." - Bubba Watson

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Bubba holes birdie from bunker after caddie calls it

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 10:31 pm

Bubba Watson started the final round of the Genesis Open with the lead, but quickly squandered it with three bogeys on the front nine.

That didn't crush the two-time tournament champion's (or his caddie's) confidence though, as evidenced by his birdie on the par-3 14th hole, which he made from the greenside bunker.

Watson regained the final-round lead by finding the bottom of the cup with this splash-out from the sand, a shot his caddie, Ted Scott, apparently called before he hit it:

Hey, when you caddie for a guy who has two green jackets hanging in the closet at home, sometimes you just know.

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.