Did cell phones play role in Mickelson's withdrawal?
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) 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.''
QUADRUPLE DISASTER: The treacherous 184-yard, par-3 12th is often considered the signature hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy's weekend almost became wide open after he played it in Thursday's first round of the Memorial.
The world's No. 2-ranked golfer had parred his first two holes after starting the opening round on the back nine.
His drive at the 12th cleared the large lake which covers most of the territory between an elevated tee and a narrow ribbon of green, landing in the deep sand bunker behind the green. His ball ended up on a downslope, which added danger since the green ran away from him and toward the water.
``I had no shot,'' he said later. ``I was trying to land it just out of the bunker in the rough and let it tumble onto the green. But I had such an awkward stance, it was just hard to execute the shot.''
McIlroy's sand shot landed on the green but picked up pace as it rolled through the green and ran all the way into the water.
He had to return to the ball drop, about 100 yards on the other side of the lake, for his fourth shot. His wedge shot ended up in the front bunker. From there he blasted out to 10 feet past the cup and missed the comebacker, settling for a quadruple-bogey 7.
``Rory obviously got unstuck,'' said playing partner Luke Donald, the world's top-ranked golfer. ``He fought back pretty well.''
McIlroy, shoulders slumping as he went to the 13th tee, regrouped. He put up four more birdies and chipped in for an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole against one bogey and finished with a 1-under 71.
It was quite a salvage job.
``I just tried to stay patient and not even think about the score, just think about what I'm working on in my swing and try to make good swings,'' said McIlroy, who will defend his U.S. Open title in two weeks at Olympic in San Francisco. ``That's really all I could do out there. I saw enough good (shots) that there was a little bit of encouragement, and to string a few good holes together on the back nine was nice.''
McIlroy wasn't close to setting a record. The highest competitive score on 12 is a 10 - set by the late Hall of Famer Payne Stewart in the 1998 Memorial.
HERE COMES THE RAIN: It's a running joke that if Central Ohio ever gets hit by a drought, all anyone would have to do is stage the Memorial Tournament and the rains would come.
Over the tournament's 36 years, 39 rounds have been delayed, suspended or canceled by inclement weather.
But this has been a dry last few weeks at Muirfield Village Golf Club and a quicker, harder layout is baring its teeth.
``It's a hell of a test out there, really,'' Tiger Woods said after a 70 that left him among the leaders.
Drives are hard to keep in the sloped fairways because the ball runs into the deep, clingy rough. The greens hold shots but not like the years after monsoons turned them into huge dartboards for the world's top players. And errant putts can result in some knee-knockers.
``You have to find the right parts of every green or else you're in for a long day,'' Blake Adams said after a 69.
There are several trouble spots that require players to be diligent. For example, many hit drives to the end of the fairway at the par-5 fifth hole. But with the added roll from drier fairways, there's a danger of the ball kicking into a lake.
``It definitely is playing firm and fast right now,'' said Rory Sabbatini, who also had a 69. ``We're not quite accustomed to that here.''
They may have to get accustomed to it again. Thunderstorms are expected on Thursday night and during the second round before the skies clear once again.
TOUGH HOMECOMING: Bo Hoag grew up not far from Muirfield Village, played there throughout his high school and college career and was making only his second PGA Tour start.
It didn't go well.
Hoag, the grandson of one of tournament founder Jack Nicklaus' best friends, had two double-bogeys and six other bogeys in an 80. Maybe it was even worse that everywhere he turned, there were family and friends cheering him on.
He felt as if he let them down.
``I'm disappointed. I really wanted to kind of be in the mix of it,'' said Hoag, who missed the cut in his only previous tour start. ``But I've got a round tomorrow and if I play good I think I can get back in it. You never know what can happen. And I honestly believe I can play good here tomorrow.''
He admitted that there was some pressure in playing not far from his home in suburban Upper Arlington - he slept in his own bed this week - and living up to everyone's expectations.
Kyle Reifers grew up in Dublin and, like Hoag, received a sponsor's exemption to play in the 2007 Memorial. He shot rounds of 76 and 75 and missed the cut.
He returned on Thursday and had a 1-under 71 that left him in the thick of contention. He had some words of advice and consolation for Hoag.
``It's tough playing in front of the home crowd, a lot of pressure,'' Reifers said. ``He'll probably have more tournaments in his career and he'll look back and kind of laugh at it, hopefully. I'm sure he'll play solid tomorrow and take something from this week.''
DIVOTS: The group of Chris Kirk, Robert Garrigus and Robert Allenby combined to take one less shot than McIlroy did at No. 12. Each had a birdie 2. ... A young woman in the gallery passed out just as Fred Couples was lining up a par putt on the 13th hole. After he was assured she was getting attention, he holed the putt. He later cracked, ``Is she OK? I'm no doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.''... Scott Stallings needed just 25 putts - including nine one-putt greens and a chip-in for birdie at the par-5 fifth - in his 66 to take the first-round lead. ... Spencer Levin made birdie putts of 25, 32 and 33 feet in his round of 67.
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