After hitting his drive on the 16th tee yesterday, Justin Thomas turned to the gallery and had a fan ejected from the course. It seems Thomas wasn’t happy that the fan was rooting for his ball to go into a bunker. What?
Ryan Lavner of The Golf Channel got Thomas’ explanation of the incident following his playoff win:
“I don’t want to kick someone out just to kick them out. It’s just so inappropriate. We’re out here trying to win a tournament. … Just because you’re standing behind the ropes doesn’t mean that you can – I don’t care how much I dislike somebody, I’m never going to wish that kind of stuff upon them.
“I felt it was inappropriate, so he had to go home.”
Just a week ago Thomas had put the Tour on notice that he wasn’t happy with the current state of crowd control at their tournaments. I was supportive of his attitude that having crowds disrupt a player during his swing was getting to be a problem. But, I have to disagree with Thomas’ and the Tour’s actions yesterday.
This guy was kicked out for rooting for Thomas’ ball to go in a bunker after he had hit his shot. That isn’t disruptive. It may be classless. It may be unbecoming. It may have angered Thomas. It isn’t grounds to have a fan removed from a sporting event. I’m not sure why the guy was so vocally rooting against Thomas but as a paid fan he has the right to do so as long as he doesn’t disturb the player while in the act of playing a shot. I hate the “mashed potatoes” crowd as much as anybody. I wish that Tour crowds were more respectful of the traditions of the game. But this guy paid for his ticket. I’m reasonably sure there isn’t a stipulation on his ticket that says that all vocal comments made by fans need to be positive and supportive of all competitors at all times. This is also the sort of “fan” that the Tour and players have fostered with their support of rowdy crowds at events like the Phoenix Open.
Wow, okay, glad I got that off my chest…
It’s this sort of press that continues to haunt golf. I’m sure there will be dozens of stories written and sports radio discussions had today about the fragile golfer that had a fan removed from the course because he had the nerve to root against him. The poor little golfer that had his ego bruised by a mean fan who wanted him to lose.
Thomas is young and under a great deal of pressure as his game comes into top form. His playoff win yesterday moved him up to World #3, loaded with momentum, with the Masters just 38 days away. I just can’t help but feel that his actions yesterday did more to encourage his hecklers than it did to fix the problem. He’s going to have a tough time this fall at the Ryder Cup, that’s for sure.