Mickelson sends message, loud and clear, about phone use on course

Phil Mickelson
Getty Images
According to four people with direct knowledge, Phil Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village last Thursday suggesting that a lack of policing fans with cellphones was getting out of hand.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 | 8:07 p.m.

DUBLIN, Ohio -- The biggest distraction Jack Nicklaus ever faced on the golf course was from a helicopter.

It's an old story, but Nicklaus chuckled while recalling the time he lost his concentration when a chopper flew over Cherry Hills in the 1960 U.S. Open and he three-putted for bogey. Two years later, Nicklaus had gone three rounds without a three-putt in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont when a helicopter approached as he played the first hole of the final round.

"I reverted and thought right back about it," Nicklaus said over the weekend. "It was the only three-putt I had in the whole tournament."

The issue at Memorial was cellphones, which contributed to Phil Mickelson withdrawing after an opening round of 79. Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler mentioned the vast number of fans taking pictures with their phones, to the point players had to back off their shots.

Mickelson is not afraid to send a message to the tour -- in this case, literally.

According to four people with direct knowledge, Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village suggesting that a lack of policing fans with cellphones was getting out of hand.

Mickelson withdrawing for what he called "mental fatigue" is not a tour violation. Players can withdraw for any reason after completing a round. Using a phone to send the commissioner a text is another matter, though the tour doesn't disclose any disciplinary actions.

If nothing else, one official said it got the tour's attention.

Mickelson doesn't mind taking criticism, even for pulling out of Nicklaus' tournament. He skipped the Tour Championship during a debate over the length of the PGA Tour season and decided not to play a FedExCup playoff event in the inaugural year to protest the inequity of the pro-am policy. Those close to the tournament host said Nicklaus wasn't bothered by Mickelson's decision to leave and never brought it up.

Last year, the tour began allowing fans to bring phones to the tournament so long as photos weren't taken during competition. There are designated areas to make calls. That's not going to stop fans from taking pictures, and most annoying are the people who don't switch the phones to silent.

Banning the policy isn't an option. The tour is moving forward in the digital age with programs to enhance the gallery's experience. Plus, the increase in attendance has been tangible this year. Nowadays, if fans can't bring their phones, they're more likely not to come at all.

The solution is to add security or volunteers to the two or three marquee pairings, and to take away phones from fans caught taking pictures (giving them a claim check to retrieve the phone at the end of the day). That's what happened on Friday, and there were no big incidents the rest of the way.


Comments

Par4mtl

Stop giving Phil a pass. To withdraw from Jacks event was RUDE and lacked professionalism. He is playing like a hacker and that is it. Bubba, car chases and cell phones, not having fun . Drama queen.

english2english

It is my understanding that cell phone manufacturers on all or most camera applications do not produce cell phones that allow the user to turn off the clicking sound. It is intended to allow people around the person taking the picture to know that a picture is being taken.

Golf is unique in comparison to other sports when it comes to noise. Regarding the noise from picture-taking, it is the timing of the click and picture against the contrast of silence which is distracting to some professional golfers. If it is currently against spectator rules, then Phil has a right to assert himself here.

bubba92

I don't believe there is any sport in the world that needs complete silence. Quiet time is used in a library or church. People are allowed to move around a golf course and shouldn't be censored for it. picture yourself at a baseball or football game with complete silence. those are the real athletes that endure all kinds of name calling and booing during the game.

fdayers

Technology continues and as long as their are celebrities there will be cameras. Suggestion to the problem: Have Bose design a light fitting head set for golfers but STILL have the camera rules in place

sorg67

I have little sympathy for tour players. They have to remember that they are entertainers first and competitiors second. If competition suffers to enhance the experience of the fans, so be it. If they want a pure competition, they can book a course, allow no fans, no television, no purse, no courtesy car, etc. NBA basketball players can shoot free throws with thousands yelling, PGA tour players can learn to do the same.

fdshea

Been playing for 35 years, half my life now, still a single digit handicap and think it would be interesting to allow fans to yell, scream, jump up and down for one tournament anyway and see who can handle it. Just not throw anything, they do it in all the other sports. We are a little spoiled in golf.

dttjm

It's fine to have a cell phone on you... The noises just have to be shut off! There is no reason why the PGA Tour should not be policing this and making sure phones are confiscated if they make noise. It's just a shame that Phil had to withdraw from a tournament for them to finally do something. For Phil's sake, I hope he really WAS mentally fatigued and got the rest he needed at home. It would be kind of sad to withdraw from a tournament just because of something that the PGA Tour should have been doing all along-- make sure people's phones are off, or take them away!

joycelang1

You go, Phil. Admirably standing up for what you believe. Rusty Dunn: excellent approach to finding a necessary solution to handling the reality of today's sporting events. These are the rules, do you understand the consequences of not following said rules, sign here. Done.

joycelang1

You go, Phil. Admirably standing up for what you believe. Rusty Dunn: excellent approach to finding a necessary solution to handling the reality of today's sporting events. These are the rules, do you understand the consequences of not following said rules, sign here. Done.

jinabnitt

Personally I feel pictures should be allowed as long as they are not taken during a player's preshot routine or shot. I once took a picture of Ricky Fowler as he was walking from the tee box to the fairway, and got a stern speaking to. There is absolutely no reason we shouldn't be able to take pictures during this time. As far as I am aware, the PGA is the only sporting event in which pictures are not allowed. Once the player is getting ready to hit a shot and the quiet signs go up, no more pictures. Any one caught taking a picture during this time is ejected...no exceptions. I think it's ridiculous that players blame a bad shot on a small little click of a phone camera anyways.

kuhlmankk

its not Rabbitt ears its ridiculous that they allow them period

juebi69

Phil used the cell phones as an excuse. His game was garbage. I was there all day Thursday and can tell you from first hand that not ONE cell phone that was used to take a picture made ANY noise. These cell phones and pictures are not affecting their game at all. There is no difference between a gallery of a thousand people standing there staring at you and a a gallery of people holding a tiny little cell phone. Get over yourself. Bubba said that "It was no fun playing golf since they allowed cell phones on the course". Really???? Really???? How about this Bubba, you come work my construction job all day in the hot sun and tell me how much fun it is playing a silly little game. Don't be a moron. And btw, no one had more pictures taken of themselves than Tiger, and it seemed to work out just fine for him.

rustydunn

Cell/smart phones are the new era and yes it may have an affect on attendance. I mean some are following the match on an app seeing what the field is doing, and most are probably cking facebook. The solution is fixing ignorance of the phone user(there is the problem). Do not be afraid of Signage and strict action. That is still the best policy. If phones are allowed then do this: Warn them STERNLY ahead of time, have them sign an agreement, not just let them walk through the gate and do whatever. Make them sign a waiver! Put huge signs up.
CELL PHONE POLICY: NO FLASH, NO CLICK, NO RINGER, NO TOLERANCE! Any violation is immediate ejection from the course for the day. NO TOLERANCE for ignoring this policy. Sign here X_______________ Lets make this happen instead of being stuck in the dark ages and saying they're not allowed! Why did Mickelson have his phone? He's a family man and a golfer. His family is important and I am sure he for NO reason wants to be unreachable from contact from his family for any reason, even a round of golf!