Phil Mickelson cited mental fatigue as his reason for withdrawing from the Memorial Tournament on Thursday. Playing partners Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, however, hinted that it may have been the constant clicking of fans’ cell phone cameras that drove the popular lefty from the star-studded Muirfield Village Golf Club field.
"It took Phil out of his game," Watson, a regular critic of the PGA Tour’s rule that lets spectators carry phones on the course, told the Associated Press. "Phil's a great player and a great champion and it just took him out of his game. It's sad. It's sad that cell phones can make or break a championship."
That and a 7-over 79 -- Mickelson’s worst round ever at Jack Nicklaus’ tourney -- were probably enough to send Phil packing. Lefty chalked his bad day up to too much golf (Thursday was his fourth start in five weeks) and merry-making (he helped his wife Amy celebrate her 40th birthday in Europe), and said he needed to marshal his reserves for the U.S. Open in two weeks.
“I think mentally I’m a little bit fatigued," Mickelson told reporters after Thursday's grind. "I’m hitting it so poorly that … I have to look at what’s best for me to play in the U.S. Open, and I’m going to take the next few days to kind of rest up.”
Fowler, while less dour about the cell phone issue than Watson, noted that the packed gallery could have driven Mickelson to distraction.
"There were a few phones out there," a chuckling Fowler told the AP. "There were a few times when we had to back off and reset. You could see Phil was a little fatigued and was having trouble blocking it out a bit."
Watson was not so amused by the antics of those in the gallery.
"Yeah, it was bad. But it's been pretty bad ever since they made that rule," Watson said. "When they make these marquee pairings, more people are going to follow them and more people want to take pictures. So it makes it very difficult.
"Ever since they made that rule that cell phones are allowed, it's just not fun playing."
Apparently not. Bubba limped in with a less-than-spectacular 75 in his first start since returning from a month’s hiatus due to his own burnout after celebrating his Masters victory in April. Fowler is at 71 -- five shots off Scott Stallings’ pace-setting 66.
Mickelson, by the way, won’t be off the course for long. He told reporters he would participate in a corporate event after the weekend.
“I have a Monday outing,” he said.