Sports betting is expected to be legalized across more US states in the coming years, and that presents a multitude of issues that professional sports organizations will have to keep an eye on. Rory McIlroy is anticipating at least one significant one for the PGA Tour.
During a recent episode of The Golf Channel’s “Rory & Carson Podcast,” McIlroy spoke about the issue Ian Poulter had at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis last month when a fan Poulter described as an “idiot” openly rooted for his approach shot on the 18th hole to find its way into a bunker. McIlroy said that is an unfortunate part of the sport, and he thinks it could become more prevalent with the legalization of sports gambling.
“I think that’s going to be one of the big things about golf and legalizing sports betting in this country. What is going to happen is you will see more of this (heckling) stuff occurring because there are going to be those who have bet against you, and the guy you are playing with,” McIlroy said, as transcribed by Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner. “Whether it’s the fantasy (golf game) or just sports betting, they’re going to want to try and alter the result because they will potentially either make or lose money from it.”
McIlroy may have a point, but that has been going on at sporting events for a very, very long time. Sports betting has been legal in Nevada for many years, and there is no shortage of bookies, online gambling sites, or other avenues for fans to place bets. Could it make the problem worse? Sure, but that’s not a new concept.
Golf has become increasingly popular among younger fans (think college age) in recent years, and that has led to more unruly behavior during tournaments. Poulter also gets heckled more than the average golfer because he has always been very outspoken and loves playing the role of heel at the Ryder Cup. While McIlroy’s prediction about sports gambling may prove to be accurate, there are plenty of other factors that lead to fans behaving inappropriately. Poulter’s flamboyant personality is one of them, and he brought a lot of that on himself.