A perfect storm could be brewing over Boston as the 122nd US Open approaches. With all that’s been going on with LIV Golf in recent weeks, battle lines have been drawn and passions are running high amongst the players and the fans. A Brookline crowd, known for being enthusiastic, verging on fiery, has potential reason to let their feelings be known and create quite a cauldron of emotion. Could we see that cauldron bubble over this week? Will we see once loved players heckled for recent actions?
Boston sports fans are known for their dedication and intensity. Support for the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins and the New England Patriots can at times be fanatical – through both victory and defeat. Whenever significant golf comes to the Boston area, the crowd is a little different to that we usually see on the main tours and at Majors. They’re a little more vocal, a little less deferential let’s say.
The Battle Of Brookline
When the Ryder Cup was contested at Brookline in 1999, “The Battle of Brookline” as it became known, the fans came pretty close to over-stepping the mark (many would say they did.) The European team received a barrage of abuse from the galleries, none more so than Colin Montgomerie who was dubbed “Mrs Doubtfire.” The Ryder Cup is always a little more lively than regular events in terms of one-sided spectating but Brookline 1999 remains the most partisan and heated encounter between Europe and the USA.
We’re back at Brookline this week and the crowd once again has reason to be partisan and it’s once again for patriotic reasons. If social media reaction is anything to go by, many of those in the galleries will feel that Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and the other LIV rebels have let them down. They’ve turned their back on the American Tour in favour of a foreign circuit funded by Saudi money.
An emotive letter written by Terry Strada, the national chair of 911familiesunited.org criticised the U.S. players who have joined the LIV Tour – 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attack were Saudi Nationals. PGA Tour commissioner Jan Monahan also pointed at the implications of being involved with the Saudis.
A combustible scenario?
This could all lead to a combustible scenario as the week pans out in Boston. With passionate, patriotic sports fans not afraid to voice their opinions, particularly after a few beers have been sunk, it’s not hard to imagine some heckling for those who have opted to take the LIV Golf route. Former darlings of the crowd like Phil Mickelson and DJ could just find themselves receiving spirited attention of a rather different sort.
Mickelson spoke in his press conference of his deep empathy for the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks but there will be plenty in the galleries this week who feel that empathy is not quite enough. They’ll judge him on his actions rather than his compassion.
We see other rowdy events through the year, the WM Phoenix Open springs to mind – Beer can throwing and streaking anyone? But, really, it’s mainly boozy antics and a giant party rather than anything too volatile. The East Coast crowds like to party too but parties where some of the guests aren’t wholly welcomed can end nastily.
Players like Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have spoken out strongly about their disapproval of those who have moved over to LIV Golf and that could work strongly in their favour this week in winning the support of the crowd. It’s quite possible that we could see two sides emerging, with those on the LIV side of the fence facing the sort of animosity felt by a visiting Ryder Cup team… Might we be in line for the Battle of Brookline part two? Possibly not, but we could certainly witness some uncomfortable and fiery moments. Having faced plenty of flak already, the LIV Golf rebels in the field will certainly be aware of that possibility.