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‘Get in the bunker!’ This year’s rogue golf fans, ranked!

December 17, 2018

As 2018 concludes, it’s time to reflect on the year that was in golf. There were plenty of great shots, landmark victories and young stars on the rise — and we’ll get to those. But this piece is about appreciating the game’s spicier moments.

Golf’s “controversies” are often borne of small issues — perceived slights, arcane rulings, over-served fans — but that just serves to make them more entertaining. So here, as determined by a GOLF panel (of one), are GOLF’s Rogue Golf Fan Controversies of the Year. (You can read the rest of the year’s controversies HERE.)

Justin Thomas Fan
Justin Thomas had one particularly memorable fan run-in during the 2018 Honda Classic.


Have the drunken, phone-wielding, Snapchatting fans gone completely mad? Have the wealthy, coddled, particular players gone soft? Depends who you ask.

The finalists:

4. HECKLER vs. WEBB’S CADDIE – Golf fans are familiar with the withering manner in which Steve Williams dealt with rogue fans or cameramen during the height of Tigermania. But I never remember seeing as comprehensive a verbal undressing as Webb Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori, gave a fan at the Dell Technologies Championship.

3. SPIETH vs. “TATER TOTS!” – This year felt like the tipping point in players starting to feel like the Waste Management’s party vibes have gone too far. Spieth suffered two particularly egregious mid-swing screams (one of ’em: “Tater tots!”) and refused to speak with the media after his first round. I think that may be his last start in Arizona for a while.

2. TIGER vs. BRITISH FAN  Have you ever heard Tiger Woods yell at a fan? That’s what happened on No. 18 at Carnoustie, where he needed a birdie to have a chance at making a playoff. Someone screamed just before impact, causing a flinchy one-handed followthrough from Woods before he whirled around toward the gallery, understandably perturbed. “What are you doing?!” A valid question! As it turns out, Frankie Molinari had this one locked up anyway.

(Related Tiger fan moment: There was this cringe-worthy mid-putt scream, too…)

And the winner is…

1. JUSTIN THOMAS vs. BUNKER GUY — This, during the final round of the Honda Classic (which Thomas won, by the way), has a chance at being THE iconic player-fan interaction of the decade. The fan’s line — “Get in the bunker!” — and JT’s response — “Enjoy your day buddy, you’re gone” — have each entered the Tour lexicon. And while Thomas has embraced it, leaning into the ribbing and admitting he overreacted (and explaining on Twitter), this became an oft-cited example both of overzealous fans and oversensitive players.