Max Homa Hecklers Cast A Shadow On Live Betting At Golf Events

Written By John Haslbauer | Last Updated
Max Home BMW Championship live betting

At last week’s BMW Championship, a small $3 wager between two intoxicated fans intervened with play. The spectators attempted to throw off Max Homa and Chris Kirk on the putting green. Though this incident of live event betting between spectators did not occur through a legal sportsbook operator, it sparked a wider discussion. Should live betting at golf events should get promoted less or policed more?

Step into the arena of any prominent sporting event, and you’ll hear prompts to “make some noise.” The exception, however, is golf. Patrons often receive reminders to do the opposite and be “quiet, please.” It’s a gentleman’s agreement between patrons and players to remain quiet until the player has made his stroke, but the growing pervasiveness of legal sports betting may continue to bait patrons further and further into crossing that line and causing disruptions, as was the case on Saturday at the BMW Championship.

Max Homa Comments On Live Betting Hecklers At BMW Championship

After the round was over, Max Homa commented on the hecklers. He voiced his concerns over whether the popularity of golf betting and live betting will lead to more instances like this.

You can watch the full interview here.

In a subsequent interview prior to the TOUR Championship, Jon Rahm confirmed players hear gambling chatter constantly.

“That happens way more often than you guys may hear,” he said. “I mean, it’s very, very present.”

He said he hears positive stuff as often as not, but added that any intentional distractions are very difficult to police given the large crowds and closeness of the spectators.

“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.”

How can the PGA tour prevent heckling in the future?

In short, as Rahm noted, you can’t. There is security lining every hole and green as it is, and as Homa pointed out in his post-round interview, the worst they can do is kick the hecklers out for violating the prompts to remain quiet while players are addressing the ball.

In golf, the leaders are the last to tee off over the weekend. That also happens to be when the casual golf fans are more likely to appear in droves. The leaders are, anecdotally, the most prone to having consequential bets on them, so the threat of being kicked out as the round is nearly complete is not a very serious one.

At MLB or NFL games, you may see fan intervention in the form of on-field streakers. These perpetrators can receive overnight jail time and fines for trespassing. These acts also do not affect competitive balance.

A “noise complaint” at a PGA TOUR event is hardly grounds for jail time. But a greater deterrent for invasive patrons may help maintain competitive balance.

So what can they do? A hefty fine with persistent warnings on the tickets, entrances to the event, and throughout the grandstands, seems a good place to start. A lifetime ban is another popular suggestion, but very difficult to enforce in rotating events like the BMW Championship. Last week marked just the second time since 2003 in which the PGA TOUR held an event in the greater Chicago area at Olympia Fields.

It begs the question of whether these one-off rotating events invite more heckling from casual sports fans than an annual mainstay on the PGA TOUR schedule where proper fan behavior is more conditioned.

The TOUR, for its part, maintained that the issue isn’t rampant and hasn’t become pervasive since widespread gambling legislation in 2018.

How will this impact live sports betting?

Again, this isolated incident at the BMW Championship had nothing to do with legal sports betting sites. This was simply a $3 bet made between friends. But it brings to light what may become a much larger issue. If a fan with $3 at stake felt compelled to distract the players competing in front of them, what lengths would a bettor with $1,000 or $10,000 staked on a matchup bet stoop to? If a fan faces a $1,000 fine for disrupting play, but in doing so ensures that his $10,000 live bet cashes, then yelling in an opponent’s backswing may feel like a +EV decision!

Heckling is pervasive in all sports. But, the atmosphere of a golf tournament is the most prone to fan disruption, given how close the galleries are and how amplified a sudden noise can feel. As the PGA TOUR continues to forge deeper partnerships with legal sportsbooks and lean more heavily into features like live betting, it will be interesting to monitor whether a tipping point is reached in which fans take matters into their own hands to influence their bets.


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