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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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."