Bunker Mentality

Was McIlroy entitled to have this heckling fan thrown out?

Bunker Mentality

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Rory McIlroy was again painted as the bad guy for having a fan thrown out on the final day of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. It was an unfortunate incident on a glorious day for the Northern Irishman.

But frankly, how would he be expected to react to persistent abuse? When heckling goes too far, players have to react - they are only human, after all.

Speaking out about the incident later, McIlroy said he had been consistently heckled by the offender throughout the day. He, rather understandably, grew increasingly frustrated with the spectator, whose noise interrupted his backswing at the 16th hole.

"He was giving me grief all day," the now three-time Major winner said. "I sort of put up with it for the first 15 holes, and then he deliberately coughed on my downswing on the 16th tee.

"I still hit a great drive. But I heard it halfway down and I knew who it was. So I turned around and got him chucked out, thankfully.

"I don't know who it was. But I didn't have him bothering me for the last two holes, which was nice."

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McIlroy wasn't the only player to have issues with crowd members on a tense final day at Hoylake. Second-placed Sergio Garcia left the putting surface on the same hole to enter the crowd and have words with an encroaching spectator.

Are sports stars entitled to feel aggrieved when fans have their say in loud, off-putting ways? Are they supposed to simply put up with whatever is thrown at them, literally or verbally?

On the one hand it is often said that sporting heroes are rewarded handsomely for doing what they love and are therefore role models at all times, duty-bound to accept both praise and criticism from fans.

Indeed, do spectators have the right to say what they want - to cheer or to boo - given that they have handed over a lot of hard-earned money to support their favourite performers?

The McIlroy incident raised these pertinent performer-fan relationship questions as the spectator in question was rather forcefully led away by four policemen.

The Northern Irishman is far from alone in having encountered problems with fans and even going to the extent of having paying spectators ejected from the sporting arena.

Colin Montgomerie endured countless spats with spectators, particularly those in America who took to teasing the Scot they called 'Mrs Doubtfire' before and after shots around the course.

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Novak Djokovic and Philipp Petzschner had to get the umpire to help ensure that three short-tempered tennis fans in the stands of the Arthur Ashe Stadium were thrown out from the US Open in 2010.

Clearly, when fans are taking things too far, officials and stewards have to get involved - sometimes, even the police.

John Higgins was heckled by a spectator during the final session of his 17-14 semi-final win over Mark Williams on the anniversary of a News of the World sting, which showed him apparently willing to throw frames in unspecified future tournaments, claims he has strenuously denied.

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His interruption was howled down by other Crucible spectators and the referee, Eirian Williams, ordered him to be removed from the arena, a directive with which security promptly complied.

Even when spectators have not paid to attend a sporting event they can feel entitled to do as they please, something which angered Tour de France rider Ramunas Navardauskas so much that he reacted ferociously to fans taking dangerous selfies on the side of the road.

Navardauskas twice knocked phones out of the prying hands of spectators in what was the biggest rider backlash since Belgium’s Wout Poels snatched a spectator’s pair of sunglasses and threw them down a ravine during the Giro in May.

So do fans have a right to say what they want to stars after paying to attend an event, or are the likes of McIlroy entitled to have individuals thrown out in frustration? Post your comments below...

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