Phil Mickelson withdrew from the Memorial last weekend because of mental fatigue after posting a 79 in the opening round. But something else may have contributed to Mickelson’s early exit from the tournament: cellphones.
According to four people with knowledge of the situation, Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village claiming that the lack of policing of fans using cellphones was out of hand.
Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler also both complained about the number of fans taking pictures with their phones, which forced some players to back off of their shots.
Watson and Fowler were Mickelson’s playing partners last Thursday and both claimed Mickelson’s withdrawal was due to fans constantly distracting him by taking photos with their cellphone cameras. Watson claimed the tour’s rule on cellphone cameras isn’t working. The current regulation says fans can have them if they are on vibrate and are only used in specific areas.
Watson seemed pretty upset by the situation:
“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 cellphones can make or break a championship. It makes it very difficult. Ever since they made that rule that cellphones are allowed, it’s just not fun playing.”
Police claimed that about 50 phones were confiscated from the Watson-Fowler gallery on Friday after Mickelson withdrew. According to the Golf Channel, volunteers estimated they took 100 phones from the gallery following Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Bill Haas on Friday.
The tour clearly needs to work out some kind of compromise that allows fans to have phones, but maintains the integrity of the play on the course. The PGA is trying to make the tour more fan-friendly, hence the rule allowing phones. But if that has a big effect on play on the course then the rule simply isn’t worth it.
That said, we do find it pretty funny that Mickelson sent a text message from the course to complain about cellphone usage by fans at the event.