This is from the Byron Nelson, not the Memorial, but you get the idea. (Getty Images)
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We all know the drill: When you're watching a tournament live, the golfers demand absolute silence when they tee off. Like, hold-your-breath-till-they-swing silence.
But since this is 2012, and not 1952, times are changing on the golf course. Specifically, many tournaments now permit cell phones. (They did in 1952, but you had to install your own telephone poles and string your own wire, so most fans didn't bother.) And most cell phones now have cameras. You see where this is going: Even though people silence their cell phones, they somehow forget to silence the "shutter click" of their cameras.
Around Phil Mickelson's pairing on Thursday, the cell-camera-clickers made a noise with every swing like a thousand crickets being stepped on at once.
"It took Phil out of his game," playing partner Bubba Watson told the AP. "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."
"There were a few phones out there," Rickie Fowler, the third member of the group, added. "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 didn't point to shutterbugs as the reason for his withdrawal; instead, he cited exhaustion. While it may be true, it's a rather weak defense, and one that likely doesn't sit well with tournament host Jack Nicklaus. Let's be honest, friends: The worst day playing golf is better than the best day doing pretty much anything else. After shooting a 79, Mickelson would have needed to bring out a 62 or so on Friday to make the cut; why not play one more day?
So it's likely not the cell phones' fault that Phil is out; Mickelson generally doesn't have much of a problem saying what's on his mind, and he's aware enough of his place in golf history, and his responsibility relative to Jack, not to make a stand on such an issue.
Still, it's not going away. Watson, who despite his newfound green jacket fame still has a bit of a prickly personality at times, was pointed in his critique of cell phones. "It's been pretty bad ever since they made that rule [allowing cell phones on the course]," he 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."
That's going a bit far, perhaps, but Watson has a point. You could say golfers are too nitpicky, and perhaps they are, but the issue isn't the sound itself, it's the suddenness. And when you need to keep your body working within millimeters, disruption can be costly indeed. As with everything else, there's a sweet spot here; getting people to figure out how to silence their camera shutters is now a necessity on the golf course.
Then again, maybe this is for the best. Ten years from now, golfers will have adapted to screen out the noise of cell cameras. They'll have something else to gripe about then, surely, but it won't be this.
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