Caddies have right to confront hecklers, say players, Strange

Caddies have right to confront hecklers, say players, Strange

Tony Navarro confronted a heckler Friday at the U.S. Open.
Harry How/Getty Images

A day after Adam Scott’s caddie, Tony Navarro, crossed the ropes to confront a heckling fan during the second round of the U.S. Open, reports, rumors and opinions of the fracas flew around the South Course at Torrey Pines like golf balls.

Navarro denied that he head-butted the fan, as witnesses had alleged. Some caddies, including Robert Allenby’s, amazingly hadn’t even heard what happened. And Lee Janzen, who was playing in the group behind Scott yesterday, said he wasn’t totally surprised by the incident.

“There were a lot of idiots out there yesterday, just far too many fans who were behaving badly,” Janzen said, “so I can see where you might lose your temper.”

Janzen said he actually had his own tiff with some fans who wouldn’t yield as he was trying to pitch his ball onto the 15th fairway. “I was having words with a couple of guys and realized before it was going to go any further that it was pointless to engage in conversation,” he said. “They were just being mouthy and smart-alecky. The one guy’s excuse was, ‘Oh, sorry, I’m drunk.'”

The Scott hecklers allegedly were also drinking, and while loudmouth lushes are not uncommon at golf tournaments, the super-charged Scott-Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson grouping seemed to create a particularly electric atmosphere.

“I don’t remember seeing anything like this [at a golf tournament],” said Mark Rolfing, an on-course analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel. “There was a lot of yapping. It was more like you would see in an arena where you have two teams — with some people rooting for one team and some people rooting for another.” And at least a couple people heckling.

That was the scene yesterday when Scott’s group arrived on the tee at No. 9, their final hole of the day — and Navarro would have none of it. When a fan wouldn’t hush as Stuart Appleby was teeing off on the adjacent 18th tee, Navarro crossed the ropes and confronted him.

But did Navarro cross the line?

“It just depends on what was said,” said Appleby, who said he was so focused on the flight of his tee shot that he missed most of the scuffle. “There’s always a line, and one person’s line is a little different from another’s.

“It was an interesting end for the day,” he added. “We thought that might have been something you’d get in New York, but not here.”

Curtis Strange, the two-time U.S. Open champion and a famously fiery player, had a more sympatheic take.

“I’m not condoning what [Navarro] did,” Strange said. “But there comes a time when you’ve had enough. You’re a man and you’ve got to protect your manhood.”

Strange, who didn’t know all the details of what had happened, was then told that witnesses said Navarro actually head-butted the fan.

“Well, good for him!” Strange said.

That’s Curtis being Curtis, of course, but his reaction speaks to the responsibility caddies have for their players’ well-being. “After a while out there the fans can get pretty drunk and unruly,” said Todd Sunderland, D.J. Trahan’s bagman, “and if it takes you to a point where you’ve got to say something, you’ve got to say something, or at least get the authorities involved.”

“You hope that security takes care of it,” Janzen agrees. “It’s really pointless for a caddie or player to engage [a fan] unless he’s physically threatening you.”

And if it comes to that, Janzen warns, hecklers ought to watch their backs.

“I don’t think most spectators realize how big golfers really are,” Janzen said. “They have 14 weapons, too, and they’re willing to use them.”