‘Slippery slope’: Rory McIlroy addresses issue of gambling hecklers at golf events

Rory McIlroy speaks to media at 2023 Tour Championship

Rory McIlroy spoke with reporters on Wednesday ahead of the 2023 Tour Championship.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy sat down for a wide-ranging pre-tournament press conference at the 2023 Tour Championship on Wednesday and offered his opinions on the hottest topics in golf.

From LIV Ryder Cup drama to Scottie Scheffler’s “unbelievable” season (which GOLF’s Dylan Dethier broke down here), Rory didn’t shy away from any query.

That includes a question about one of the thorniest issues facing pro golf’s future: the intersection of golf gambling and hecklers at pro events.

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Players have been raising the alarm about spectators influencing on-course action for gambling purposes all year, but a high-profile incident involving Max Homa last weekend at the BMW Championship reignited the discussion. Homa and playing partner Chris Kirk were harassed by a fan shouting at them to miss putts, presumably related to bets he had made.

“I love that people can gamble on golf,” Homa said at the BMW. “But that is the one thing I’m worried about.”

That specific wrinkle — fans’ potential influence on tournament play — is also at the center of McIlroy’s concerns.

“We’ve talked about this at the board and the PAC level for a few years. And it is a bit of a slippery slope because I don’t think there’s any — maybe basketball and you can sit courtside, but I think it’s a different environment where people can really affect the play out here,” McIlroy said Wednesday.

The four-time major champion identified determining successful enforcement procedures as the key to preventing the problem from getting worse.

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“So, look, as long as it’s policed the right way and as long as there’s measures put in place for hopefully things like what happened to Max Homa last Saturday not to happen,” McIlroy continued. “We’re all for people out here having a good time and being able to put something on an outcome, but as long as they don’t feel like they can come here and influence that outcome, I think that’s important.”

Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm shared similar concerns this week.

“I think the Tour maybe should look into it because you don’t want it to get out of hand,” Rahm said. “It’s very easy, very, very easy in golf if you want to affect somebody. You’re so close, you can yell at the wrong time, and it’s very easy for that to happen.

“I feel like we hear it every single round,” Rahm added. “That happens way more often than you guys may hear. I mean, it’s very, very present. In golf, spectators are very close, and even if they’re not directly talking to you, they’re close enough to where if they say to their buddy, ‘I bet you 10 bucks he’s going to miss it,’ you hear it. So it happens more often than you think.”

As for what fans can do to help with the issue, McIlroy closed out his comments on the subject with some simple advice for spectators attending events.

“If I was here as a fan, I just want to go out and try to watch the best players in the world and have a good time doing that.”

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