U.S. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said the world’s top golf circuit is committed to its mobile-phone policy after Phil Mickelson and other players complained about excessive use during last week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
Mickelson left the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event following the first round after texting Finchem from the sixth fairway during play to complain about the lack of control of phone use by fans, said T.R. Reinman, a spokesman for the player, confirming an Associated Press report.
“It’s in the past for Phil,” Reinman said in a telephone interview. He declined further comment and said Mickelson wouldn’t address the issue any more. Mickelson had cited exhaustion in announcing his withdrawal. Finchem refused to say whether he spoke with Mickelson.
Rickie Fowler, who played with Mickelson and Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson in the opening round at Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, said the mobile-phone use that day was the “worst I’ve seen.”
Finchem still said the tour has no plans to abandon its policy of allowing fans to bring phones into tournaments. Guidelines limit the use of phones to designated areas and prohibit photos or videos being taken during play. At the Memorial, fans weren’t following the rules and marshals weren’t actively policing the crowd, the commissioner said today.
“We’re committed to making it work,” Finchem said in an interview while playing in a pro-am round at the Champions Tour’s Tradition event in Birmingham, Alabama. “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.”
The issue seems to become more apparent when a group includes several marquee players, such as Mickelson, a four-time major winner, and Fowler and Watson, who partnered with fellow PGA Tour player Ben Crane in a popular 2011 “Golf Boys” video, Finchem said.
After testing mobile-phone use by fans at five events in 2010, the PGA Tour began allowing fans to bring them to tournaments in 2011. Phones must be on vibrate or silent in designated areas.
“We know, by virtue of the fact that we don’t get many ringers, that the vast majority of fans will use good etiquette,” Finchem said. “We have to be aggressive to some extent when the policy is violated.”
With fans using their phones to access statistics and keep in touch with players through social media, Finchem, said the benefits of allowing the devices on the course are too great to ignore.
“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.”
Not all tournaments share that enthusiasm for mobile-phone use. The Masters Tournament, golf’s first of four majors, bans phones as does the U.S. Open, which will be played next week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Mickelson has five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open to go with his three Masters wins and the 2005 PGA Championship.
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