Crowd Influencing Play ‘A Slippery Slope’ - McIlroy Issues Warning Amid Gambling Rise

There are some concerns that spectators are influencing play at tournaments

Rory McIlroy Gambling
Rory McIlroy discusses the issue that gambling can have at tournaments
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy has fired a warning ahead of the Tour Championship at East Lake – and it has nothing to do with winning more Majors or Europe aiming to win back The Ryder Cup.

A number of the best players in the world have been taking questions on a range of topics ahead of the season finale, one of which was the subject of betting in golf.

Last week, two people were ejected from the BMW Championship after shouting at Max Homa while he was stood over a putt.

The pair’s remarks reportedly related to a wager between friends, and many people are concerned that the increase in popularity of sports betting in America could lead to more such incidents.

McIlroy shares this concern, saying the golf lends itself to a situation “where people can really affect the play”.

The Ulsterman added that it’s a “slippery slope”, and admitted that the subject has been discussed at PGA Tour board level.

He added: “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, because look, 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.”

Asked for his thoughts on the Homa incident, Jon Rahm opened up on the problem golf might have with betting.

“I feel like we hear it every single round,” he said. “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, yeah. But not only that, on the tee and down the fairway. I mean, luckily golf fans are pretty good for the most part and you're hearing the positive, I got 20 bucks you make birdie here, things like that. But no, it's more often than you think.”

Rahm, who also criticised the current FedEx Cup format, thinks it’s a problem that the PGA Tour needs to address.

“I think the Tour maybe should look into it because you don't want it to get out of hand, right? It's very easy, very, very easy in golf if you want to affect somebody,” he added.

“You're so close, you can yell at the wrong time, and it's very easy for that to happen.

As to how the PGA Tour could stamp out the kind of incident that was seen with Homa, Rahm admits there might not be an easy solution.

“So I think they could look into it, but at the same time, it would be extremely difficult for the Tour to somehow control the 50,000 people scattered around the golf course, right?

“So it's a complicated subject. You don't want it to get out of control, but you also want to have the fans to have the experience they want to have.”

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.