I have only played golf a handful of times, the investment of several hours to complete a round being a major turnoff for me. But from time to time I will tune in on a Sunday to watch the world’s best play the game for big money. Last weekend was the British Open at Royal Troon, Scotland, a particularly interesting tournament given the often extreme weather conditions faced by the players. As they say in Scotland: nae wind, nae golf.
While watching the final pairing of Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson as they battled for the championship I was struck by an incident. After hitting his approach shot on the 18th hole, Mickelson threw a bit of a hissy fit, complaining that photographers camera shutters had been clicking during his back swing.
The understanding is that once the ball is hit, click away, but not before. Mickelson snapped at the group of photographers; something along the lines of “”Guys, that’s so shitty. I can’t believe that. I get you gotta cover it, but why you gotta interfere with it?”
Interfere? This was not a matter of someone shouting or waving a banner – Caddies’ Lives Matter. Nope, it was cameras clicking.
I recall when fans at basketball games would sit in silence when a player was at the line shooting free throws. This was etiquette and was done for both teams, not just the home side. Then at some point it must have dawned on folks that this is a sports event, not a religious service. You pay your money, you make your noise. Free throwers were now faced with an often frantic attempt by opposing fans to put them off their game. Hooting, hollering and waving pool noodles were some of the methods of distraction employed. Basketball is, after all, a spectator sport.
I think the time has come for golf to grasp the concept that it is also a spectator sport. Golf and tennis are, I believe, the only sports where fans are told to be quite. Interestingly they are also club sports; most players coming from privileged club memberships.
Perhaps golfers need to learn to block out fan noise and concentrate on doing their thing, like all other sports professionals do. I’m not suggesting that the PGA is ready for pool noodles, but frankly a seasoned professional chastising a photographer for shutter clicks is a bit of an embarrassment. Are they that frail?