Side Note
Rory McIlroy, currently the most mad man in golf.

Rory McIlroy, currently the most mad man in golf.

Pro golfers are gigantic babies

During the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday, the Irish P.G.A. professional Rory McIlroy was trailed by a heckler who kept yelling his wife’s name at him, which somehow led to him proposing that professional golf tournaments need to stop letting people get drunk.

“I think they need to limit alcohol sales on the course,” he said in a post-round press conference. “Every week it seems like guys are complaining about [unruly fans] more.”

This isn’t the first time McIlroy has taken issue with unruly fans, and on the whole, the relationship between professional golfers and their galleries has become openly antagonistic. In February, McIlroy claimed that rowdy fans were thwarting Tiger Woods’s chance at a P.G.A. comeback. And a week after Justin Thomas — currently one of the top five golfers in the world — called it “unacceptable” that members of his gallery were yelling while he was trying to concentrate, he ejected a fan from a tournament for shouting that Thomas’s tee shot should roll into a bunker (Thomas later apologized).

Golf fans get a kick out of heckling pro golfers for the same reason people get really excited when a celebrity falls for a “BOFA” joke on Twitter — because suddenly, a member of the anonymous crowd has managed to make a person with structural power look like a fool. And when pro golfers complain about hecklers in the press or go so far as to have them ejected from tournaments, it only makes the problem worse. Not only does it reinforce the impression that golf is an elitist sport, but per the logic of trolling, the possibility that a famous person might get mad at you creates an incentive to piss them off.

Ironically, a Rory McIlroy heckler was also responsible for the decade’s most genuinely entertaining moment in professional golf. During a practice round at the 2016 Ryder Cup, a spectator clowned McIlroy for missing a particularly tough putt. In response, McIlroy’s playing partners pulled the dude onto the course and tried to shame him by betting him a hundred bucks he couldn’t make it either. The guy made the putt like it was nothing, the crowd went wild, and for a moment, golf was actually fun to watch.