Gambling in the crowds on the PGA Tour? You bet there is, according to Jon Rahm.
An incident involving Max Homa at the BMW Championship on Saturday has sparked a conversation around spectators making wagers within earshot of the golfers they’re staking on.
Homa was on the backswing of a short putt on the 17th hole of his third round at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois when he said a fan – whose friend had allegedly bet him $3 that Homa would make the shot – shouted at him to “pull it.”
The American holed the effort but, having already been irked by the same fan yelling at playing partner Chris Kirk for narrowly missing his putt, Homa was fed up. As he and caddie Joe Greiner left the green, they both shouted at the fan – Homa calling him a “clown” with “maybe another word,” and Greiner something “a lot meaner.”
“[He] was probably drunk, I hope for his case, or else he’s just the biggest loser there is,” Homa told reporters Saturday.
“I love that people can gamble on golf, but that is the one thing I’m worried about … Fans are so great about being quiet when we play, I think they are awesome. When anybody ever talks, it’s so unintentional. They don’t know we’re hitting.
“It just sucks when it’s incredibly intentional, and his friend specifically said it was for $3 – not that the money matters, but that’s a frustrating number,” added Homa, who finished the tournament tied-fifth, six shots behind the victorious Viktor Hovland.
‘It’s very, very present’
While the story was news to Rahm, who finished tied-31st, the nature of the incident was not.
Speaking ahead of this week’s season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the Spaniard insisted fans can be heard gambling by players during “every single round.”
“That happens way more often than you guys may hear. I mean, it’s very, very present,” Rahm told reporters Tuesday.
“In golf, spectators are very close, and even if they’re not directly talking to you, they’re close enough to where if they say to their buddy, ‘I bet you 10 bucks he’s going to miss it,’ you hear it.
So it happens more often than you think. But not only that, on the tee and down the fairway. Luckily, golf fans are pretty good for the most part and you’re hearing the positive – ‘I got 20 bucks [because] you make birdie here, things like that.’
“It’s not caught on TV maybe, but it’s something that happens.”
Asked whether the PGA Tour needed to actively address the issue, Rahm was unsure. Given their proximity, it is “very easy” for fans to affect golfers, the world No. 3 said, but pondered how practical it would be for organizers to enforce any measures to stop crowds getting “out of hand.”
“I think they could look into it, but at the same time, it would be extremely difficult for the Tour to somehow control the 50,000 people scattered around the golf course,” Rahm said.
“So it’s a complicated subject. You don’t want it to get out of control, but you also want the fans to have the experience they want to have.”
‘Every fan can have a front row seat’
PGA Tour President Tyler Dennis said Tuesday that fan conduct was taken “with the utmost seriousness,” confirming that the spectators involved with Homa and Kirk at the BMW Championship were immediately ejected.
“What is most special in golf is that every fan can have a front row seat. It’s unique among sports,” Dennis told reporters at East Lake.
“The environment we put out at a PGA Tour event, we believe, is best in class, so you balance that with the fun. And that’s long been an issue out here, really, since the beginning of the PGA Tour.
“We have a robust and comprehensive fan code of conduct, we have an extensive security apparatus and plan each week, and we feel really confident about all the aspects of that. We spend a good deal of time monitoring it each and every day and we take it very seriously.”
Dennis was joined at the press conference by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who added that Saturday’s incident was “unfortunate,” but ultimately, uncommon.
“Our fans have great appreciation for the integrity of the competition – they’re respectful of our players,” Monahan said.
“We have seen that continue to be the case and expect that to continue to be the case. We have tremendous fans that have tremendous respect for what these players need to do in order to provide and present the tremendous performances they do.”