ATLANTA — Even though a PGA Tour spokesperson said the tour has not seen an increase in spectators attempting to distract golfers for betting purposes, Jon Rahm said Tuesday that players hear about gambling “every single round.”
“That happens way more often than you guys may hear,” Rahm told reporters Tuesday at a news conference ahead of this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. “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.”
PGA Tour president Tyler Dennis confirmed Tuesday that a fan was ejected from the third round of last week’s BMW Championship for allegedly yelling “Pull it!” while Max Homa was attempting a short putt on the 17th green at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago. Homa told reporters that the fan had bet $3 on him to miss the putt. Homa made the 5-footer.
“I love that people can gamble on golf, but that is one thing I’m worried about,” Homa said. “It’s just always something that’s on your mind. It’s on us to stay focused or whatever, but it’s just annoying when it happens. … Fans are so great about being quiet when we play. I think they are awesome. When anybody ever talks, it’s so unintentional. They don’t know we’re hitting. It just sucks when it’s incredibly intentional.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the incident was “unfortunate.”
“Our fans have great appreciation for the integrity of the competition,” Monahan said. “They’re respectful of our players. We have seen that continue to be the case and expect that to continue to be the case. We have tremendous fans that have tremendous respect for what these players need to do in order to provide and present the tremendous performances they do.”
Laura Neal, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of brand communications, told ESPN on Monday that security teams will take “swift and immediate action to protect the integrity of the competition” but added that no new measures have been in place.
“This isn’t rampant,” Neal said Monday. “Of course, for our security team, we want to make sure our players have the proper arena to compete in, but [there’s been] nothing outside the ordinary since gaming has become legal.”
Rahm agreed that golf fans “are pretty good for the most part.”
“You’re hearing the positive,” Rahm said. “‘I got 20 bucks you make birdie here,’ things like that. But no, it’s more often than you think. It’s not caught on TV maybe, but it’s something that happens, yeah.”
Rahm admitted it would be difficult for the tour to “somehow control 50,000 people scattered around the golf course.”
“You don’t want it to get out of hand, right?” 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.”
ESPN staff writer David Purdum contributed to this report.