11 Comments

Summary:

Golfer Phil Mickelson withdrew from The Memorial Tournament this weekend, and apparently cell phones –or people snapping pictures with them — were to blame. The bigger story is one of cell phones, etiquette and sporting events — something the Summer Olympics will bring to the fore.

Phil Mickelson celebrates with the tournament trophy after winning at Pebble Beach earlier this year.
photo: (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson celebrates with the tournament trophy after winning at Pebble Beach earlier this year.

Golfer Phil Mickelson withdrew from The Memorial Tournament this weekend, and apparently cell phones –or people snapping pictures with them — were to blame. An ESPN article on Mickelson’s withdrawal notes that the pro golfer withdrew from the tournament citing “mental fatigue.” However his mental fatigue may have been cell phone induced.

ESPN reports:

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…. [Bubba] Watson and [Rickie] Fowler, his playing partners, laid the blame for Mickelson’s withdrawal Thursday on fans who continually distracted Mickelson by snapping photos with cellphone cameras.

The PGA began allowing cell phones on the course last year provided fans kept them on silent, used them in specific areas, and didn’t take videos or photographs during play, but unsurprisingly fans weren’t content to keep them in their pockets while golfers were prepping for their putts and drives. The article quotes fellow tour players as saying that the “clicks and snaps” of fans taking pictures “affected” Mickelson, causing him to lose focus. As a former golfer, I can say that an errant twig snap as you are completing your stroke can turn a sure thing into a slice, so the click of an iPhone or Android handset could certainly cause a distraction.

So Mickelson bowed out and apparently sent a text to the PGA commissioner in frustration while on the course (ESPN doesn’t note the irony). The bigger story is one of cell phones, etiquette and major sporting events — something the Summer Olympics will soon bring to the fore. Cell phones — the noise, the flash photography — can create a distraction for athletes in certain sports. That distraction might result in a poor drive for a golfer or a broken ankle for a gymnast.

At the same time, asking people to give up their phone for an entire day or event isn’t going to fly in today’s digital age. People still feel entitled to capture their memories of being at a PGA tournament, Olympic event or any other big moment in their lives using their handset. So how do event organizers, PGA commissioners and even digital natives reconcile the athlete’s need for quiet (or no distracting flashes) with the audiences’ newfound need to capture and share the moment?

Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images courtesy of the PGA.

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  1. I think most camera apps, have the capability to turn off the sound and flash. Event organizers should encourage the crowd to figure out and use these features.

    To be honest – if they want to be really proactive the PGA or whoever should partner with or develop their own branded camera app that doesn’t click or flash.

  2. Golfers shouldn’t be such whiney little bitches. Ive been watching the French Open and tennis fans are loud and annoying, yet the players continue. Basketball and Football fans are even worse. Golfers are just prissy, pampered little girls.Golfers shou

    1. Jeff, you’re obviously not a golfer.

      Golf fans lack the technical ability to control their phones, and lack the discretion of knowing when not to take a picture.

  3. At the Masters, yes Stacey the club that allows no female members, all electronics are banned during the tournament and it remains one of the toughest tickets to get. Makes you wonder about “…asking people to give up their phone for an entire day or event isn’t going to fly in today’s digital age.”

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Greg Wednesday, June 6, 2012

      It’s possible that people will continue to give up their phones. I also think the Masters are on another level than other PGA tournaments, so what flies there may not fly elsewhere.

  4. Fans of sports that can be disrupted by noise and flashes should be kicked out of events, if they show just once that they can not remember to or figure out how to disable those features (or if they can’t use better discretion). Camera phones have been able to disable sounds for the better part of a decade, so the devices, themselves, usually aren’t to blame. I think golfers are a little whiny, but I have seen on TV that it is expected for spectators to be silent at certain moments, and the custom should be observed.

  5. If you watched the tournament on TV, you could hear these noises during some shots, it was ridiculous. And the day following Mickelson’s withdrawal they confiscated several several hundred phones so obviously they CAN do something about it, they just weren’t. The most obnoxious part is that every smartphone (every phone of any kind that i’ve ever used) has an option to turn the shutter sound off. Sometimes its tied into the ringer volume but since they should be on silent anyways, that shouldn’t be an issue. I think they should kick people out who fail to silence all sounds from their phone, especially if caught taking pictures. its inevitable that people will take pictures if they can have their phone but enforcement should be limited only to those who aren’t respectful of the game and/or fail to silence their devices.

    Also, its not a ‘new found NEED’ to capture and share the moment, its a ‘new ability’ to do so that is at issue. People have always felt the need to share but previously were not able to do so in real time with anyone besides the people attending the event with them. Kick the first person out who takes a picture with sound and/or a flash and i doubt there will be many others who need to get kicked out.

  6. Divergent Trend Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Why are golfers so soft?

    Elite athletes in most every real sport go out and perform in the midst of roaring crowds that number in the tens of thousands. This is while trying to avoid being pounded into the dirt, punched in the face or crashing a car while going 200 mph.

    A golfer hears a camera click and his reaction is to take his club and go home.

    Laughable.

    1. You, like jeff, are obviously not golfers. When I’m having a good day, sounds don’t bother me. When I’m not playing well, my own breathing bothers me. I can’t imagine what tournament pressure does to a golfer.

      Consider yourself ignorant.

  7. r u kidding me Thursday, June 7, 2012

    I golf.

    So a baseball player is expected to hit a ball traveling at him 90 mph while crowds around him shout and cheer but a golfer whose task is to hit a stationary ball sitting motionless is distracted by the noise?

    Golf is a game of mental agility – that’s why I suck, but then, I can’t hit a baseball @ 90 mph either!

    Can we say “prima donnas”?

  8. cammyharbison Thursday, June 7, 2012

    Great article – I am really on the fence about this issue. I am an avid cell phone user myself, but I also understand the need for concentration in this sport. I have a discussion going about it on a blog post I created at http://www.gsmnation.com/blog/2012/06/07/cell-phone-pga-events-whats-take

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