I feel the sudden urge to scream.
Phil Mickelson is in the tee box on No. 3 at Quail Hollow Club, squaring up his Callaway driver and getting ready to take a mighty left-handed whack at that little white ball, and it’s all I can do to keep my mouth shut.
Maybe it’s the 12-year-old boy in me – the one who comes across the “No Climbing on the Rocks” sign and has to fight the impulse to crack his knuckles and roll up his sleeves; the one who sees “Do Not Push Button” and immediately whips out his phone to get a photo of himself with his finger hovering over it.
Whatever the case may be, when a dozen stone-faced Wells Fargo Championship marshals raise their arms in a stern call for “Quiet, Please!” as Mickelson gets ready to hit his next drive, that obnoxious voice inside my head wants to manifest itself as an obnoxious voice outside of it.
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I’ve been a casual fan of the sport nearly my entire life, and even played (although I use the term loosely) on my high school’s varsity team for one year. But I’ve never understood the obsession with turning PGA tournaments into outdoor libraries where books are replaced by solid-colored windbreakers, khaki shorts and tennis shoes.
In fact, the gallery at a PGA tournament like the Wells Fargo event makes your local library look like a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant.
At least at the library you can get away with sneezing. On Friday, a guy standing near me let one loose and then breathed a sigh of relief, remarking to a companion how glad he was that no one had been about to attempt a putt – even though he was probably 80 feet away from the third green.
“Back on number two I felt a sneeze comin’ on, when what’s-his-name was about to swing,” I overheard him say to his buddy, “and I was like, ‘Ah, s---.’ ”
I guuueesssss I can understand the concern there. If I were trying to, say, remove the funny bone during a game of Operation and I had bet my opponent $200 I could do it, I probably wouldn’t want someone unloading a surprise sneeze right as my tweezers were entering the cavity opening.
On the other hand, I don’t think I’d be at a disadvantage if, say, someone was walking along 50 feet behind me, completely out of my field of vision. And yet on Friday, I felt obligated by a marshal to stop in my tracks on the cart path and clam up as Chris Stroud prepared to hit his approach on 7 – even though his back was to me.
And who knows what kind of wrath I would have suffered had I dared to hold up my cellphone at that moment. “No photos of players as they execute a shot within any competition area,” according to the Wells Fargo Championship spectator handbook.
There is, of course, a bit of a quaint appeal to this “gentlemanly” approach to fan etiquette. The silence puts an emphasis on the focus these golfers put into their craft, and the resulting crack of titanium against thermoplastic is both iconic and invigorating.
But what would be lost and what could be gained if fans were permitted to go a little crazy?
Stephen Curry can hit a game-winning three with 20,000 people screaming at him. Stephen Gostkowski can put a 50-yard field-goal attempt through the uprights with four times that many people making noise. And Nolan Arenado doesn’t need to hear a pin drop to be able to jack a fastball into the upper deck.
Sure, these are imperfect analogies, and I can hear the purists gnashing their teeth already (sshhhh!).
But come on. Danny Noonan proved in “Caddyshack” that he could sink a 12-foot putt with a bunch of bozos shouting at him to miss it. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot of fun to watch Phil Mickelson try to do the same thing?