Fortunately for Phil Mickelson, next week’s U.S. Open is not a PGA Tour event, but, rather, a USGA tournament. So Lefty won’t have to worry about unruly spectators, whose constant clicking of their cell phone cameras purportedly contributed to his withdrawal from the recent Memorial Tournament.
USGA rules prohibit fans from carrying cell phones of any sort -- especially those with photographic capabilities -- onto the course during competition. That’s a good thing for Mickelson, who’ll play the opening rounds with Masters champ Bubba Watson, who grumbled about the same cell phone problem that drove his Memorial playing partner from the tourney, and Tiger Woods, the king of angry glares following disruptions on his back swings.
If it were a tour contest, however, Mickelson would be on his own to deal with the annoyances of fans and their cell phones, because -- despite a reported text message he sent to tour commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway during his only round at Muirfield Village saying that officials had to beef up cell phone-related security -- the commish purportedly rejected his suggestion.
The tour has let fans take phones to the course since last year, with the primary caveat that they not use them to take photos during regulation play. Spectators are supposed to make calls and use their phones in designated areas only, but let’s be serious: that was never going to happen.
As of Thursday, according to Bloomberg News, the tour will not change its on-course phone policy, despite Mickelson’s reported gripes.
“We’re committed to making it work,” Finchem told Bloomberg News during a pro-am event at the Champions Tour’s Regions Tradition event in Birmingham, Ala. “If we get to a point where we don’t have an acceptable competitive environment, we’ll do whatever we need to do, but I don’t see that happening.”
Finchem essentially ignored Mickelson’s carps, when he said that “the vast majority of fans will use good etiquette.” He did concede that policing of the fans could be more efficient. “We have to be aggressive to some extent when the policy is violated.”
Still, Finchem noted, it was up to the fans to abide by the tour’s regulations.
“It is incumbent upon the fans to help us out here so we can maintain this policy and make the experience very positive,” he said. “Being able to keep their phones with them is part of that.”
As a refresher course for spectators carrying phones to PGA competitions, the tour’s cell phone guidelines require fans to:
- Set ringers on silent
- Make and receive calls in designated areas only
- Receive and send text messages on the course, away from play
- Refrain from taking photos or making video recordings on the course, at any time
More immediately, the U.S. Open guidelines are more stringent and preclude fans (who may carry cameras on the championship grounds during practice rounds only) from:
- Taking photos of players from the time they address their balls until they have completed their swings
- Bringing camcorders or other video recording devices to the course at any time
- Boarding shuttle buses or entering through admission gates with any cell phones (including those with photographic capabilities), PDAs, and/or other portable e-mail devices
As for the Open itself, in an oddity of the first two rounds of play, Woods, Mickelson, and Watson will tee off at 10:33 a.m ET on the ninth hole -- a departure from the usual split tee formats that have groups starting on No. 1 and No. 10.
About the Tiger/Phil/Bubba threesome, ESPN analyst Curtis Strange said during a Thursday teleconference that the competition among the guys in the marquee group was “going to be phenomenal.”
Another notable group will be defending champ Rory McIlroy, world No. 1 Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood teeing off at 4:29 p.m. Thursday from the first tee. Strange’s colleague Paul Azinger shrugged off McIlroy’s recent struggles, saying his three consecutive missed cuts were “just no big deal.
“He's only 23 years old,” Zinger noted, although he disagreed with those players who dubbed McIlroy “the next Tiger Woods” as the young Northern Irishman was clubbing them into submission during last year’s Open.
“He's not Tiger Woods,” Azinger said. “He missed seven cuts in one year. Tiger missed eight cuts in 14. So he's a normal kid, and he plays abnormal golf. He's unbelievable. An unbelievable player. I love watching him swing the club.
“But,” Azinger reiterated, “he's not Tiger.”