Tiger Doesn’t Like Fans With Cell Phones, Either

Tiger Woods offered an unsolicited opinion on fans with cellular phones, telling ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi that if the Tiger-Phil-Bubba pairing was done in a regular tour event — where fans are allowed to have cell phones this year — “it would have been brutal.”

Rinaldi, who we think interviewed Tiger after his mass press conference Tuesday (we saw Rinaldi waiting for Tiger outside the press tent, and Tiger is in the blue sweater/blue shirt he wore to that press conferece), asks Tiger about the marquee pairing of himself, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, a trio certain to attract the balance of the gallery at the Olympic Club during Thursday and Friday rounds.

If you watch the video (which is under the USGA auspice, and not ESPN even though ESPN’s Rinaldi is doing the interview) Tiger says the pairing should be “fun, a lot of fun,” and then adds the caveat which is a non-subtle dig at the PGA’s cell-phone friendly policy.

“It’s something I don’t think we all would enjoy that much in a regular tour event, with the new camera policy,” Woods said. “It would have been brutal. But here they’re not allowed in, so this will be a fun pairing.”

After overzealous cell-phone fans bothered Mickelson at the recent Memorial tour stop, the issue has come to the forefront — with even the USGA saying they are looking at allowing cell phones on course during tournament days, though not this week. Perhaps the PGA and the USGA need to look overseas to the British Open, where there is a clear, smart and civil list of guidelines that should probably eliminate 99 percent of problems.

For us colonists, it might help to have really big signs near tee boxes and greens, saying “turn your damn phone off” or something to help people remember. And in the meantime, the pros who are playing a game for millions of dollars of other peoples’ money should remember that it is the fans, and the sponsors who want to reach golf fans, who line their pockets — so maybe the golfers, who text like madmen on the course when they are practicing, can cut normal folks some slack.

USGA Considering Allowing Cell Phones on Course — But Not This Week

It looks like the USGA was ready for questions about its cell phone policy, as executives from the country’s governing body of golf were all on message Monday saying generally positive things about considering allowing cell phone use during tournament days in the future — while keeping its ban in place for this year’s U.S. Open in San Francisco.

“We’re comfortable with the current policy [of banning cell phones during competition days] but also looking about what to do for the future,” said Joe Goode, managing director of communications for the USGA, in a quick press-room interview Monday.

The question of fans using cell phones on courses is a hot topic given the recent incident at the Memorial tourney in Ohio, where star player Phil Mickelson withdrew reportedly in part because of too many fans snapping cell-phone pictures while he was trying to golf. This year the PGA has allowed fans to have cell phones at all events for the first time. However, major tourney organizers like the Masters and the USGA (which conducts the U.S. Open) set their own rules, and for the Open this week fans won’t even be allowed to bring cell phones to the course once competition starts on Thursday. On practice days like Monday fans can bring as big a camera as they want, apparently. And nobody seemed to care that I was snapping some photos with a cell phone, though maybe it’s because I had a media badge around my neck.

Media and other VIP folks at the Open may bring cell phones in for use in approved areas like the press tent, but today we had to pass through metal detectors and get a special sticker for our cell phones to show they were approved devices, which seems a bit extreme. But it seems like Goode and other USGA types (including top boss Mike Davis, who told ESPN’s Bob Harig about the same thing) are recognizing that cellular phones have already become as regular a pocket or purse companion as a wallet or car keys, and that all-out bans seem a bit stone age, especially to folks who rely on them for important communications to family members, to work or just for posts to Twitter.

What Goode seemed to be saying — and I am paraphrasing here — is that the USGA gets it, they’re not going to ban phones forever, and they believe that there probably is a way to do things that works for fans as well as sensitive players.

They’re just not ready to say exactly what it is, though, so after Wednesday it’ll be time for fans this year to leave their cell phones at home.

But hey, you can always use the phones at tents like this one to call people — but who uses a phone to make calls anymore? What they really need — and I think some PGA stops like Pebble Beach have already tried things like this — is special areas around the course with Wi-Fi access, where fans can get their online Jones without having to bug Phil or Bubba. Now if the Open here in San Francisco had a Twitter tent, that would be forward thinking and hometown cool. Maybe some Twitter folks can jump on BART and do some kind of foo-camp setup (with appropriate sponsoring dollars) before Thursday?

(All images credit Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report; courtesy of The Olympic Club and the USGA.)

AP: Phil Texted Commissioner About… Too Many Cell Phones on the Course

The Associated Press is reporting today that Phil Mickelson sent PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a text during last Thursday’s opening round of the Memorial, complaining about the fans’ unruly use of digital devices. From the AP story:

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.

The story raises a bunch of questions — hey, are golfers going to be like NASCAR drivers, tweeting from the course? — and also (as GigaOM’s Stacey H says) ignores the obvious irony, that Mickelson is using a cell phone to complain about people using cell phones.

We expect to hear more about this bubbling issue at the press conferences for the U.S. Open next week. Should be interesting to see how big tour sponsor AT&T feels about all this, too. But from the last part of Doug Ferguson’s report it may be that only a little bit better policing is how to solve the problem:

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.

UPDATE: It appears the commish is saying cell phones will stay, for now. Read this story over at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which tracked Finchem down at a Pro-Am and asked him about the controversy.

Get Ready for the PGA Cell Phone Backlash — After the Mickelson Memorial Incident

You don’t have to be a website called Mobile Sports Report to see this storm brewing: The reported bad cell-phone behavior that might have led to Phil Mickelson’s withdrawl from the Memorial Thursday is almost certain to cause a cell phone backlash from the PGA Tour.

Though phones didn’t used to be allowed at tour events — and special tourneys like the U.S. Open (run by the USGA) are pretty damn clear that you can’t even think of bringing a phone or a camera phone on the shuttle bus, much less at the course — many other tour stops are now allowing or even encouraging folks to bring their mobile devices. Check out what went on at the recent HP Byron Nelson tourney down in Texas, where some savvy social media folks turned the knobs up to 11, based on a lot of on-course fan-phone interaction.

Great for marketing. But is it good for the game? It’s clear the “talent” doesn’t think so. And they’re not going to stay quiet about it.

Phil himself is probably too nice and too media-savvy to come right out and say bad things about fans — patrons — whatever you call folks at a golf tournament — but new Masters champion Bubba Watson has no such restraining bolt, and told anyone who was listening that people taking pictures with cell phones was the main reason why Phil got Phed up (and shot his way to a 79).

I’m going to quote the entire report by AP’s Rusty Miller (which we found on the PGA’s site) because it highlights the big, bad point: Apparently a LOT of people were using their cell-phone cameras whenever they pleased, golfers backswings be damned:

DUBLIN, Ohio — Everyone has seen a golfer swivel and angrily stare at a news photographer who accidentally clicked a shutter during a swing.

Now imagine what it’s like when there are 10,000 or even 40,000 people on a golf course, all with cell phones that take pictures.

With a huge gallery following the marquee matchup of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson in Thursday’s first round of the Memorial, the continual distraction of fans with cell phones may have played a role in Mickelson’s withdrawal from the tournament.

“It took Phil out of his game,” Watson said of the continual clicks and snaps of cell phone-camera shutters. “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.”

Mickelson said the reason he was going home in the wake of a frustrating round of 7-over 79 was because he was tired after a recent trip to Italy and France to celebrate wife Amy’s 40th birthday.

“There were a few phones out there,” Fowler said with a laugh. “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.”

Mickelson made the turn at 1 over before struggling. Fowler shot a 71 and Watson, who won the Masters last month, had a 75.

Watson blamed a PGA Tour rule which permits fans to have cell phones on the course — if they are on vibrate and are only used in specified areas.

“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.”

Whoa. On one level you might be tempted to say, get a grip, Bubba. You (and Phil) are playing a game for millions of dollars of someone else’s money… and a cell phone noise is making your life miserable? I mean — baseball players have to hit a ball that is coming at them at 100 mph, not one that is lying still on the grass. And they don’t mind the noise. So… why should golfers have or expect complete silence, when they are playing in a very public arena?

Originally this was my argument on this matter — I think if you try to ban phones again you may end up with nobody at golf tournaments other than the Masters… and maybe the U.S. Open. But I think you also have to recognize tradition and what golf is all about. There’s a certain tranquility that most every golfer expects and loves when they are playing themselves. You don’t have to be Bubba to be pissed off at someone talking on a cell phone on a golf course. So in that sense Bubba is more like the rest of us than some pampered star. So I am admittedly confused now over whether I think the players have grown Colin Montgomerie ears, or whether your average fan is a self-important jerk like the people I see texting while they are driving on the freeway. Maybe, some of both.

Our favorite golf blogger/Tweeter Stephanie Wei was following up on this with cascaded Tweets and a good recap post — basically saying that for some reason there were just a lot of jerks on the phones Thursday. She also believed (like several other golf writers) that Mickelson’s withdrawl was done to make a point — that cell phones shouldn’t be allowed near the field of play. Phil is getting some roasting for his move — basically golf purists here, saying that you don’t WD because you are mad and playing poorly — but Wei makes a great point by saying that even at fan fiesta tourneys like the Waste Management in Phoenix the fans are smarter in how they use their phones. Anyone from Ohio who wants to weigh in here, feel free.

What I expect is that by sometime on Friday we will hear from the PGA loud and clear about how anyone seen using a cell phone in other than “designated areas” is going to be ushered off the grounds. And I’m not sure how I feel about that, other than that this is pretty obviously a clash of the magnitude of the topic as to why we started this site: Technology, especially mobile technology, is crashing into sports in ways nobody really imagined. How does it get solved? That’s the story for tomorrow, the day after, and the day after. Stay tuned on this bat channel, because we’ll be covering it. Maybe via our phones or tablets.

(Some of Stephanie’s Tweets embedded below)