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Zurich Classic alligators threaten golfers, eat rake, delight crowds

Officials inspect an alligator on the 18th hole during the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

If there are alligators living on your golf course — and there are alligators living at TPC Louisiana, more than 20 of ’em, according to the Times-Picayune — people will photograph them.

People will especially photograph them if your golf course also hosts PGA Tour events, and if the alligators merrily involve themselves in the proceedings by, say, monopolizing a fairway, or threatening a patiently waiting player’s golf ball, or eating a bunker rake.

Here we see Tony Finau, recovered from his horrendous Masters ankle sprain, walking down the ninth fairway at the suburban New Orleans course this week. An alligator in the background appears ready to eat Finau. It’s hard to compete in a professional sport when you’re in danger of being eaten.

Finau fared better than Talor Gooch, whose Thursday round was interrupted by a group of alligators congregated around one of his shots Thursday. According to the tour’s website, Gooch used “free relief for a dangerous situation” to take a drop, after Chesson Hadley scared off two alligators with a bunker rake but couldn’t frighten off the third.

“I like my life. I like it with all my limbs. So I stay away from those things,” Gooch said, according to the site.

A rules official also attempted to chase off the alligator with an umbrella and a rake, to no avail.

The last alligator “was eating the rake basically, so we decided that we would not take the chance,” Gooch said.

He took a drop in the bunker, knowing it would give him a bad lie, “but I chose life over a good lie in the bunker,” the weak-willed golfer said.

Officials also chased a gator off the course with a golf cart this week, earning a well-deserved round of boos. Hazards are a part of the sport; this is like bringing a humidifier to Rae’s Creek.

Gators at this event are nothing new; Rickie Fowler, who isn’t playing this year, gently bopped a gator with a rake just last year. A 2016 Times-Picayune story explained that one TPC Louisiana gator named “Tripod” — a three-legged, 11-foot-long beast of indeterminate gender — is perhaps the most famous attraction at the annual event, although the tournament’s two-man format and excellent field may have pushed the gators to the background this year. Still, the Times-Picayune quoted course officials who noted that broadcast partners ask about Tripod every year, that the tournament named both a cocktail and a travel package after the creature, and that suite holders ask after Tripod before renewing their contracts.

Getty Images photographer Chris Graythen happened to encounter Tripod during Thursday’s play, and he took a series of photos conclusively demonstrating that golf is a terrifying sport that should never be played without at least one rake nearby.

(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)By Friday’s round, at least one alligator was back in the water where he or she belonged, and there were no immediate reports of golf balls, rakes, umbrellas, golf carts, rules officials or professional golfers having been eaten. It’s well established, though, that the most exciting moments at PGA Tour events don’t arrive until the weekend. So stay tuned.

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