Rob Schumacher/The Republic

Good luck to the PGA Tour on cracking down on unruly behavior – especially at the Waste Management Phoenix Open – now that it has updated its fan conduct policy and will no longer tolerate such “disrespectful” calls as “Brooksie!”

“It’s disrespectful, and that’s the kind of behavior that we’re not going to tolerate going forward,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said during his press conference Tuesday at the Tour Championship.

The fact is, yelling “Brooksie!” at Bryson DeChambeau has been grounds for dismissal at tournaments since at least the Memorial in June.

At a time when many believe golf has distance and pace of play problems, two of the more pressing matters Monahan could’ve highlighted during his press conference, he instead chose something that is small potatoes (as opposed to fans yelling mashed potatoes) in comparison. It was actually a shrewd maneuver on his part as it deflected away from bigger concerns (the upstart renegade leagues that won’t go away and continue to be a nuisance) and made him look as if he’s protecting his players from an onslaught of unruly behavior.

And yet it’s still ironic that Monahan would take such a firm stance on this issue given that the Tour has promoted the very sort of behavior it now is pledging to rid from the game.

Let’s not forget, the Brooksie thing escalated quickly when Brooks Koepka incentivized fans to taunt and some might say bully DeChambeau with chants, promising them free beer if they were booted from the Memorial. The Tour rarely announces disciplinary action – and given that Michelob Ultra also is the Tour’s official beer this was probably viewed as a win for Koepka’s social media engagement and bump in the Player Impact Program (PIP) standings and cheap publicity for a valued sponsor – and so as far as we know Koepka wasn’t punished for his childish behavior. Maybe he got a phone call from one of Monahan’s underlings to tone it down. But regardless, wherever DeChambeau has gone, he’s had to endure barbs from the overserved frat boy demographic who likely celebrated their removal as a badge of honor.

“It’s apparent that we have gotten away from the very civility and respect that are hallmarks to our great game,” Monahan said.

He’s not wrong. The level of decorum at all professional sports has eroded, but as Rory McIlroy pointed out golf was different. It held itself to a higher standard. Yell, “Miss it, Noonan,” when a player was putting and you’d get a slap in the head just as in “Caddyshack.” But it wasn’t that long ago – before golf’s COVID bump – that the game was supposedly dying and the industry was collectively in full desperation mode, trying everything from 15-inch cups to Foot Golf to attract new golfers. The PGA Tour, facing a Tiger-less future, went so far as to build its current marketing campaign around an inclusive, “Live Under Par,” motto that encouraged selfie-nation to get close to the action, document their encounters and share it all on their various social media platforms. Oh, and can you fill out this release form from the Tour’s legal department so it can include you in its next boffo TV campaign.

The Tour was so willing to cater to a younger demographic that it tolerated the “Baba Booey” and “Mashed Potatoes” screams and welcomed the Cameron Crazies-like behavior from other sports.

“I think certain other sports culture has fed into our game and fed into the fan base,” McIlroy said.

Is this just a few bad apples spoiling the bunch? Of late, the heckling of DeChambeau has bordered on bullying, and Koepka’s continual jabs, such as his caddie appreciation tweet after DeChambeau split with his long-time bagman, have gone from humorous retorts to something out of Mean Girls. It would’ve gone a long way to quelling the problem if Monahan had flexed his muscles and forced a truce but then again he’s dealing with independent contractors. Apparently U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker had more juice with Koepka and DeChambeau. In the meantime, fans behaving badly has jumped the shark. Patrick Cantlay summed it up perfectly.

“If those 20 people have had enough to drink or feel emboldened enough to say something because they want to impress the girl they’re standing next to, then, yeah, like, you’re in trouble,” he said. “Like, people are going to say bad things.”

The whole Bryson-Brooksie beef took on a life of its own after the Tour encouraged its own players to become more involved in social media with a $40-million bonus pool to be shared by the most popular players. Some of golf’s biggest headlines were generated when a video of Koepka rolling his eyes at DeChambeau during an unaired interview was leaked on a week when neither of the golfers competed. It was PIP magic and they likely will be rewarded handsomely for it. They are competitors first and foremost so it was inevitable that someone would borrow from the world of wrestling to stir up a feud. But it also stirred the pot with a class of fans that wants to be part of the story.

Is Monahan’s policy an overreaction? It depends which players you ask.

“If we’re expecting to be one of the major sports and play for the kind of money that we’re playing for and have the sponsors and attract the fans, then you got to kind of be ready to perform in front of big league-type fans,” Stewart Cink said.

McIlroy, on the other hand, said fans have become less respectful and have begun to cross the line.

“People will make the argument that, well, it happens in every other sport. But I would say that we’re not any other sport and I think golf should hold itself to a higher standard,” McIlroy said. “I mean, the players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn’t our fan base be.”

McIlroy noted that there’s a very thin rope that separates players from the fans.

“And then you hit a shot off line, and you have to go into the fans to hit it,” he said. “So we get a little closer to them than some other sports.”

That rope line is as thin a line as it is between a sea of love for Tiger Woods winning for the first time at East Lake in 2018 and Koepka feeling as though he was being mobbed as he and Phil Mickelson were swarmed by fans on the way to the 18th green at the PGA Championship at Kiawah in May.

Maybe the threat of expulsion is all the Tour really needs to do here. Cantlay noted that fans are more respectful at the Masters, where they are known as patrons, in part because of the zero-tolerance policy the club enforces. Bad behavior isn’t just grounds for dismissal; it’s likely going to cost you that priceless badge that’s been in the family for generations. Getting banned from Jack’s Place, however, doesn’t put the same fear of God into ticket holders, but then again Koepka hasn’t made them an offer they can’t refuse. After all, people will do almost anything for a free case of beer.

Tour Championship
Tour Championship