Golf

The alarming reason why a heckler disrupted golf event won by Steph Curry

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Mardy Fish, left, and Steph Curry reacting to a heckler at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship last week.
Twitter: @NevadaSportsNet
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am may be the granddaddy of celebrity-splashed golf tournaments, but the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, may be the title the game’s best celeb golfers — including the likes of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, MLB pitching legend John Smoltz and actor Jack Wagner — most want to win. Year after year, serious sticks from the worlds of sport, music and acting convene at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course to play in the 54-hole Stableford event. There are plenty of jokes, laughs and cocktails, but come Sunday, the contenders are all business.
Such was the case last week when former tennis great Mardy Fish arrived on the 18th tee in the final round leading his playing partner, nine-time NBA all-star Stephen Curry, by three points. In Stableford scoring, an eagle is worth six points, a birdie is worth three and a par is worth one, so a birdie or better on the reachable par-5 would have at least guaranteed Fish a spot in a playoff.
Fish already had proven he can handle the pressure of holding a lead late on Sunday, having won his first American Century title in 2020. But he couldn’t have seen — or, more to the point, heard — what was coming next. As he addressed his ball on the tee, a fan yelled, “Hey, Fish, f— you, you suck!”
“And Steph’s, like, ‘Whoa, dude, what are you doing?!” Fish recalled this week on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. (You can listen to the full interview here.)
ICYMI, @StephenCurry30 narrowly defeated @MardyFish at the American Century Championship last weekend.

What exactly happened with the heckler at the 18th tee box?

Mardy shared the story with @ryenarussillo: pic.twitter.com/95LDQX7IOf
Curry wasn’t the only bystander who was irked. Fish said his own caddie was also “kind of pissed,” adding, “He’s got his eyeballs on this guy and probably going to say something after I hit. So I reset. I take the club back and right at the top of my backswing — and it wasn’t like in the downswing, it was right at the top — he sort of yells, I don’t know what he yelled, some sort of bird sound or something. He got me good.”
That second heckle was captured on the NBC telecast, but the first was not.
Fish’s drive went into the trees left of the fairway, eliminating any chance of him reaching the green in two. After his tee shot, he said, his and Curry’s caddies, along with Curry and Curry’s father, Dell, tracked down the heckler.
“It was actually kind of cool to see the camaraderie of everyone being like, ‘That’s not cool, man. We don’t want to win like that, we don’t want to play like that,’” Fish said.
“And you could tell that Steph is actually bothered by him to where when we got down to the green and he’s gotten on in two and had an eagle putt, I walked by him and said, ‘Dude, make the putt. Don’t worry about it.’”
Curry did make the putt, an 18-footer for a dramatic eagle. When Fish could manage only a par, Curry was the victor by two points.  
But back to the heckler. Why had he chosen Fish as his mark, and at such a critical juncture? Fish said the heckler told the group that had approached him that he had “bet on Steph to win and so he wanted him to win.”
A fan trying to influence the outcome of a golf tournament?
“I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often, to be honest,” Fish said. “The guy probably had a lot of money on Steph.”
Fish’s concerns aren’t isolated. PGA Tour pros have voiced some of the same worries about the prospect of fans with action on a tournament potentially trying to distract players.
At the Memorial two years ago, Jon Rahm said, “It’s going to keep happening in golf with the whole DraftKings and betting live going on. I caught a couple times yesterday seeing one of my playing partners miss a putt and people just exchanging cash right next to the green.
“So it’s going to happen. I think as players we need to do our part to try our best to not get affected by it. But I also think that the Tour needs to at some point also protect the players.”
For their part, Fish and Curry made the best of what was a deeply regrettable situation.
“Mardy is such a class act,” Curry told reporters after the round. “I complimented the way he bounced back to give himself a chance to make a putt on the last hole. It’s kind of hard to acknowledge that and also understand that, if I make that putt, like you said, we go to a playoff, and if he makes that putt on the green, he wins.
“It’s tough. Like I said, I hated it. In that moment, I felt just embarrassed for like all the other fans because there’s so much great love for the 99.9 percent of the other people that come into this environment and are so supportive and bring so much energy, and you got one guy that loses his mind for a second.”

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.
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