Jack Nicklaus: Camera rule Catch-22

Updated: June 2, 2012, 5:14 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

DUBLIN, Ohio -- The preponderance of cell phone cameras that may have contributed to Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament on Thursday is nearly impossible to police, tournament founder Jack Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said he has not spoken to Mickelson, who shot 79 on Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, then withdrew, citing "mental fatigue,'' a hectic schedule and a need to prepare for the U.S. Open in two weeks.

But Mickelson was clearly agitated by the number of spectators using their cell phones to take photos -- in violation of PGA Tour policy -- because of the distraction it caused. His playing partners Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler both said it was a bigger problem than usual and may have contributed to Mickelson's state of mind.

The tour began allowing cell phones at tournaments a year ago at the Honda Classic, with the stipulation they must be placed on vibrate. Phones can be used in designated areas or to check email or data, but may not be used to take photos or videos, a policy that is constantly violated, leaving volunteer marshals all but helpless.

"There is no way in the world you could have a tournament police that policy,'' Nicklaus said Saturday as the third round of the Memorial Tournament got underway. "What do you want, the Gestapo out there? It's kind of ridiculous. You've got 30,000, 40,000 people out there. How are going to go out there and do that? That's crazy, you can't do that.''

While the cell-phone issue has taken on more prominence this week, it has been an issue all year.

"It happens every week,'' Tiger Woods said Friday.

Three weeks ago at the Players Championship, Woods lamented the same issue.

"We do that every week out here now,'' he said following the first round of the Players. "Now the cameras are loud, people just don't put it on silent. Guys were backing off. ...

"The bigger the galleries are, obviously the more people you have, and now where these people can use them -- we don't mind it, it's just, put it on silent. It's not that hard. But they don't. And it's gotten ... it can cost guys tournaments, because a shot on Thursday is the same as a shot on Sunday. So it's one of the difficult things about it.''

The tour decided to allow cell phones so that spectators can stay in touch and also follow other parts of the tournament through scoring devices.

But many cell phones have a camera function that makes a noise like a regular camera when taking a photo. Professional photographers covering tournaments know not to take their photos until after a player makes contact with the ball, so as not to disturb.

"I've always felt like if you have all the noise like you have in Scottsdale (the Phoenix Open, with a large spectator turnout), if you're used to it, they expect it and it's not a big deal," Nicklaus said. "But if you don't expect it and it happens, then it becomes a big deal.

"It's either guys have got to get used to it and just expect it, or the tour has to adjust their policy. We don't control that. Whatever the tour wants us to do and thinks is right, then we'll work on it.

"From my standpoint, you don't have to worry about me, because I don't even know how to take a picture on my cell phone. So I'm in good shape if you let me out there.''

Nicklaus, 72, whose 73 PGA Tour titles could be matched by Woods if he wins this weekend, said such distractions were never a big problem for him.

"Helicopters bothered me,'' he joked. "I was never really worried about noise. A thousand times I had people come back to me and say did you hear that camera clicking while you were playing? I never heard anything. I had my mind on what I was doing.

"I'm sure Phil would have times when he'd have his mind on things and would never hear it. This maybe happened to be a different time. It's unfair for me to talk about Phil. I just don't know what happened.''

Nicklaus added: "I think the policy is they're not allowed to take pictures.''

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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