‘I do have a reputation:’ Jon Rahm issues warning to would-be Open Championship protestors
You know what they say: nae streakers, nae Open Championship.
Several times over the years — including at Royal Liverpool in 2006 — unimpeded British fans have stripped down to their birthday suits and run out onto the course during play, sometimes even embracing players. No such incident was more memorable than at Royal St. Georges in 1985 when Peter Jacobsen bearhugged a streaker back, flipping the trespasser onto the ground and then leaping in celebration as if he’d just won the tournament.
Safe to say, after a number of disruptions in the U.K. this summer, the R&A and local Merseyside Police do not want a repeat, be it from a scantily clad prankster out for nothing more than a laugh or a politically-minded protester aiming to make a statement.
According to the UK Telegraph, players and caddies have been told not to take matters into their own hands if protestors from the group “Just Stop Oil” infiltrate the course during the year’s final major.
“Just Stop Oil,” a group of environmental activists pushing the British government to end the production of fossil fuels, has been involved in a number of incidents at U.K. sporting events this summer, including at a cricket match between England and Australia last month when protestors ran onto the outfield with bags of orange powder and at Wimbledon two weeks ago when two protestors threw orange confetti and jigsaw pieces onto the court.
At the cricket match, England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow carried off one of the protestors.
At the Open Championship, a source told the Telegraph, officials have told players and caddies not to get involved.
“They must leave it to security to deal with,” the source said. “They’ve effectively been told not to do a Jonny Bairstow.”
At Royal Liverpool Tuesday, World No. 3 Jon Rahm said he had yet to see the notices to players, but he did issue a warning to anyone thinking of running onto the course.
“I do have a reputation, so I hope they don’t catch me on a bad hole,” Rahm said as the room broke into laughter. “I’ve seen a couple of those things. I know they’re going for an impact. I saw a couple of them intervening in Wimbledon, and obviously, this looks like it could be a perfect spot. But we have nothing to do with [the issues they’re protesting].”
But Rahm stopped short of saying he wouldn’t step in.
“You don’t want to disrupt play, which they’re trying [to do],” Rahm said. “So if it happens where I’m at, I’m obviously going to try to clean up as quickly as possible so we can resume play. That’s all I can say.”
A significant police presence is expected at Royal Liverpool and the nearby town of Hoylake this week. Opens at Royal Liverpool have historically drawn record crowds, with both the 2006 and ’14 editions drawing more than 200,000 spectators during those weeks.
This week, as noted by GOLF’s Sean Zak and James Colgan, a perimeter has been set up around the entire town for Open week, preventing cars from driving into the seaside town.
Even so, Rahm said the fact that a golf course is far bigger than a tennis court or cricket pitch could make it more challenging to catch protestors. But it also puts them more at risk.
“They might have more room to run around and do what they need to do, but what I can assure you is you don’t want to get hit by a golf ball,” Rahm said. “Whether it’s on purpose or even by accident, you don’t want to be caught in the middle of that.”