After a five-under 67 put him in good position to win his first tournament on American soil since 2016, Rory McIlroy suggested the PGA Tour consider curbing alcohol sales to combat heckling from rowdy crowds.
"There was one guy out there who kept yelling my wife's name," McIlroy said, per ESPN, after finishing up his Saturday round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He's just two back of leader Henrik Stenson. "I was going to go over and have a chat with him. I don't know, I think it's gotten a little much, to be honest. I think that they need to limit alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something because every week, it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more."
Crowd-player relations have been a storyline on Tour this season. Justin Thomas had a fan removed from the grounds at the Honda Classic after the spectator called for Thomas' tee shot to find a bunker, an action that prompted widespread discussion on what is, and should be, expected of golf fans.
For years, the Waste Management Open in Phoenix has served as a home for boisterous golf patrons—the par-3 16th hole there has stadium seating, and it is not uncommon for fans to boo a poor shot or heckle players. But that trend has spread to other events this season, and while some players have brushed off fans' conduct or even encouraged the passion, a number of golfers have expressed concern.
"I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I'm all for that, but it's when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy it can get a little much," McIlroy told ESPN Saturday. "It used to be you bring beers on the course but not liquor. And now it seems like everyone's walking around with a cocktail. So I don't know if it's just go back to people walking around with beers in their hand, that's fine, but I don't know."
McIlroy is no stranger to heckling, as he enjoyed a healthy but fiery back-and-forth with fans at the 2016 Ryder Cup in Minnesota. It will be worth monitoring how fans react to his comments Sunday, when he has a chance to get back in the winners' circle and build momentum for the Masters, where he'll attempt to complete the career grand slam.