Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington was scared he would have to fight a fan to defend Rory McIlroy at the 2016 tournament.
The incident occurred the last time the biennial clash took place across the pond, at Hazeltine Golf Course, Minnesota, where one member of the crowd was baiting McIlroy.
In an interview with The Times, Harrington recalls how Europe’s star player could cope with being told to ‘suck a dick’ but the personal abuse about his private life was too much and the Europe captain thought he was about to get involved in a brawl.
He said: “I’m looking at Rory thinking, ‘Don’t do it because if you do then I’m going to have to follow you in.’
“I can’t stand back and then it will be the two of us throwing handbags and it will be embarrassing for everyone.
“It’s the eternal problem for fellas, isn’t it? I have two boys and I want to bring them up right so you stand by your mates.
“But my biggest fear is one of their mates might get them into trouble. You can’t run away, though. So I’m looking at Rory…”
Participant’s patience has been running thin with spectators in recent times with incidents at December’s Presidents Cup in Melbourne showing that.
American golfer Patrick Reed was at the centre of a cheating scandal after he appeared to improve his lie in a bunker shot twice by scooping sand away with the back of his club in practice shots.
Despite being docked two shots for the offence he was still subject to booing in Melbourne, which resulted in his caddie, Kessler Karain, being ejected for pushing a fan but Harrington claims the fans are not a problem in major golf tournaments.
“The crowd is not an issue at the Ryder Cup; the crowd makes the Ryder Cup,” Harrington added.
“Players love the atmosphere and it’s different because a lot of the people there are not golf fans.
“Kessler is a super-nice guy and I feel bad for him because he just got to breaking point. Your caddie is like your best mate and you expect him to take a bullet for you, but that coming to a head is good because we have to be ahead of this.
“I mean if Rory had waded in there in 2016 what would we have done — eject Rory?”
The Irishman is fully aware that banter crosses the line but is sure organisers of major golf tournaments such as the 2020 Ryder Cup held at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin are on top of it.
“At this Ryder Cup there is going to be a policy in place and it won’t be wishy-washy. It’ll be proactive with literature and advertising — you cross the line, you get kicked out.”