Idiot Indeed: Fan Steals European Tour Pro’s Golf Ball, Costs Him 2 Strokes

The golf gods had absolutely no mercy for Ryan Fox at the Italian Open on The European Tour. Sure, when you miss the fairway with a drive, you roll the dice. And in a sense, a player doesn’t “deserve” a good outcome.

That said, he didn’t deserve what (allegedly) happened. No pro does.

Fox, teeing off at the par-4 eighth hole, watched his tee shot bound into the gallery. No big deal for the golfer? Right? He’ll make his way down there, spectators will have cleared away from the ball like it’s a dead mouse nobody wants to step on/some fear could come back to life, and he’ll play his second shot.

That’s what usually happens. Not in Fox’s case, however. When the New Zealander arrived at where his ball should have been, there was no ball. And even worse, there were no answers forthcoming from the gallery, leading Fox to believe a fan picked up the ball.

This too, is not an uncommon occurrence. But in seemingly every other case of a fan pocketing a player’s ball, either the fan realizes his/her mistake and puts it back or other fans/cameras see the fan do it, and thus it can be determined where the ball was/what happened.

In these cases, a player is entitled to a drop. In Fox’s case, nobody fessed up to taking the ball, and there wasn’t a consensus among the fans that the ball had landed in their vicinity. With no T.V. camera footage of the flight of the drive, Fox was unable to determine with certainty that the ball had landed in the area and had been pilfered.

That’s right, the pro had to declare his ball lost, accept a one-stroke penalty, and head back to the tee.

He tweeted this, and then confirmed he truly got no help from the fans.

An idiot fan pocketed Justin Rose’s golf ball at the 2016 Olympics. She realized her mistake, however, and returned the ball to the ground. As the whole incident was captured on camera, Rose and company could determine where the ball was picked up from and return it to that spot.

Fox simply wasn’t as lucky and he was a victim three times over. Once from the fan who picked up the ball. Twice thanks to the other fans who couldn’t agree on what had happened. Thrice because there was no video of the incident to refer to.

What in the world did he do to anger the golf gods? Here’s the takeaway for fans. Obviously, don’t pick up a player’s golf ball. If this is the first time you’re hearing that advice, lord help you. But more importantly, if you are sure you see a fan swipe a ball, by all means, build a consensus among your fellow fans that is what happened before the player arrives on scene.

In doing so, you’ll ensure some measure of justice for the player and avoid an impromptu “who saw what” tribunal that holds up play.

Of course, if you’re truly bold, in defense of the game, you’ll confront the Titleist taker. But be warned: the overlap between people who will pocket a golfer’s ball and people who will throw punches at a sporting event has to be significant.

A final note: You know how Ryan Fox’s Italian Open story ends. He missed the cut by a few strokes…fortunately it wasn’t two.