Swarm of Bees Takes Down Threesome, Official and Cameraman at the PGA’s Mexico Open

Tour pros Erik van Rooyen, Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie had to duck and cover while a swarm of bees coasted across the 10th hole's fairway

Tiger Woods watches as a swarm of bees passes by on the 14th hole during the first round of the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines South Golf Course in San Diego, CA, June 12, 2008.
Tiger Woods watches as a swarm of bees passes by on the 14th hole during the first round of the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines South Golf Course in San Diego, CA, June 12, 2008.
Photo by Charles Baus / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Golfers are apparently afraid of many things, most of which are centered around failure of some sort — a slice in the woods or a missed gimme putt in front of, well, any onlooker. But palpable fear of a sports-agnostic variety was on display at the PGA Tour’s Mexico Open yesterday.

While lining up his second shot on a fairway, at the par-4 10th hole of the Vidanta Vallarta golf course in Puerto Vallarta, tour pro Erik van Rooyen’s fight or flight instinct kicked in when a swarm of bees coasted across the course in his direction. Van Rooyen chose “flight,” ducking to the ground as he alerted his caddie, Alex Gaugert, of the threat.

“Bees, bees, bees, bees, bees, bees, bees — dude,” van Rooyen was heard saying apprehensively to Gaugert on the Golf Channel’s broadcast of the event.

Someone else in the area urged van Rooyen’s playing partners, Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie, their caddies as well as a cameraman and PGA Tour official to “get down.” And get down they did — not in a soul-dancing sense, but one of self-preservation.

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“That’s the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen on the golf course — everybody just hit the deck,” said Golf Channel analyst John Cook. “It’s like a fog of bees that just blew through.”

“I’ve been out doing this, on this Tour, for 30-plus years, and I’ve never seen anything like that, anywhere,” added on-course analyst Billy Ray Brown.  

Though there’s no written record of it online that we could find, something similar definitely happened at the historic 2008 U.S. Open, when Tiger Woods famously dropped a 12-foot tying putt at the conclusion of his Sunday round to force a playoff — which he, of course, went on to win — against Rocco Mediate. You know the one:

During the first round at Torrey Pines that year, however, Woods, per the Getty Images photo you see up top, had to wait around while a swarm of bees exited the playing area at the 14th hole. It doesn’t appear in the image that he was in as much danger as van Rooyen and co., though death by bee stings is an extremely rare occurrence. According to one source, Americans have a 1-in-93 chance at a fatality via car crash, but just a 1-in-54,516 chance of dying at the hands — or butts, where the stingers are — of bees.

Still, we get why the golf people all (hilariously) ducked.

After the round, van Rooyen was asked if he’d ever experienced anything like that before on a course.

“One time,” he said, according to Golf.com. “I can’t recall where exactly, but it was on a golf course in South Africa and something like I’m over the ball and then you hear like a ‘zzzzz,’ which is the sound that bees make. I look up and they’re there and the same thing happened.”

The USGA does have a rule that would have allowed van Rooyen to move his ball — or “take relief” — if the threat persisted. The rule, in part, reads:

“A ‘dangerous animal condition’ exists when a dangerous animal (such as poisonous snakes, stinging bees, alligators, fire ants or bears) near a ball could cause serious physical injury to the player if he or she had to play the ball as it lies. A player may take relief under Rule 16.2b from interference by a dangerous animal condition no matter where his or her ball is on the course.”

There are some exceptions, including: “When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than the dangerous animal condition (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.”

Van Rooyen recovered from the momentary terror nicely. After a good laugh and no stings to report, Golf.com wrote that he eventually hit his ball on the 10th hole from the fairway “just to the right of the green, pitched on, one-putted for a par and finished [the round] with a seven-under 64 that put him a stroke behind leader Austin Smotherman.”

Not bad.

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