Golf fans maneuvering around gallery ropes, walking onto the fairway and surrounding the 18th green during crucial Sunday finishes in pro golf isn’t necessarily new to the sport, but it is rare.
But what’s not to like about it? Fans getting in close and creating an intimate atmosphere as the action unfolds makes these memorable moments all the more special. You see it often at Open Championships, and the most famous instance in recent years might be Tiger Woods’ 2018 Tour Championship win at East Lake in Atlanta. More recently it happened at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, when Phil Mickelson held off Brooks Koepka.
But it also happened on a smaller scale at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club on Sunday. Although there was one problem.
“It’s crazy,” said on-course reporter Notah Begay, referring to the fans converging on the 18th as Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Henley finished up. Matsuyama, one behind, was putting for eagle as Henley faced a birdie putt. “I think it might be a bit of a mistake considering we might be looking at a playoff here. A lot of the patrons may not know they can’t step in the bunker anymore. They kind of surged in there and swarmed wherever they could find a seat and yes there are some people walking in the bunkers now. We just got to be mindful that there still might be some golf to play today.”
That’s the key, isn’t it? If you are going to surround a green, one should at least follow your typical golf decorum and stay out of the sand. After Matsuyama two-putted for birdie and Henley missed his try, they headed back to the 18th tee. Luckily the crew had plenty of time to fix a few bunker blemishes before Matsuyama and Henley teed off for their first playoff hole. Matsuyama successfully avoided them anyway, as his 3-wood from the fairway found the green, led to an easy eagle and Sony Open title.