If sports gambling is allowed in professional golf, it will turn the sport into a circus. This is the view of several key golfers who are speaking out in an effort to voice their opposition to the merger between the two activities. Rory McIlroy, winner of three Majors, is the latest to step forward and offer his take on the subject, raising concerns over the increase in hecklers that are being found around the greens.
In a podcast from this week, McIlroy stated, “It is part of sport that people are going to root against you, people who don’t want you to win for whatever reason. I think that’s going to be one of the big things about golf and legalizing sports betting in this country.”
Northern Ireland’s top player added, What is going to happen is you will see more of this [heckling] stuff occurring because there are going to be those who have bet against you, and the guy you are playing with. They’re going to want to try and alter the result because they will potentially either make or lose money from it.”
There could be some truth to the claims. Several other players have had to go to drastic measures to control out-of-control golf fans, including Ian Poulter. He recently forced a fan to be ejected from a match after being yelled at like a second-rate baseball fan. He told Sky Sports after the match, “I hate to do that [kick someone out], but we shouldn’t be getting abused in this day and age. Unfortunately, it happens quite often. Most of the time we just ignore it and let it go. One idiot who decides to be silly.”
Golf has always been a “gentleman’s game” that didn’t have to deal with hecklers and verbal attacks. The most outrageous response to a shot has been nothing more than an extended sarcastic clap. Golfers want to ensure the high amount of fan integrity remains intact and are making a connection between more raucous behavior on the part of the fans with the expansion of sports gambling.
Whether or not that connection really exists is somewhat debatable. Both Australia and Europe have allowed golf gambling for decades and the subject of unruly fans was never discussed on the scale seen today. Australian pro Jason Day has said, “I don’t think betting in general is a good thing. To bring it into golf, it will bring in a lot of money. But unfortunately, it goes with the fact people get very emotionally attached to what they’re betting on and take it very seriously.” However, gambling isn’t really being “brought into golf” – it was there already.