‘It’s the video ding’: Phil Mickelson displeased with fan phones at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson dealt repeatedly with phone-clicking fans on Thursday at the U.S. Open.

Phil Mickelson dealt repeatedly with phone-clicking fans on Thursday at the U.S. Open.

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The fans were out early at Torrey Pines on Thursday. A combination of California sun, California eased restrictions and a California major championship had thousands streaming through the gates to watch several early featured groups take on the U.S. Open.

And who better to watch than Phil Mickelson? Golf’s most recent major championship winner lives just down the road, after all. Better yet, he was paired with fellow Southern Californians Xander Schauffele and Max Homa. To top things, off, Mickelson’s birthday was on Wednesday. Plenty of reasons to cheer.

But there are obvious challenges associated with playing golf in front of a crowd. At a golf tournament, little noises can pierce the quiet air. Players flinch. Swings go awry. Buckle up. Schauffele quickly recognized there was no escaping the ruckus.

“I mean, people were very happy about his birthday,” he said. “They wished him a happy birthday on just about every hole, every 50 yards. I don’t know if he enjoyed that — but I’m sure he felt the love from the fans.”

Phil Mickeson draws a crowd. Getty Images

Feeling the love comes at a price. Specifically, Mickelson felt the effects on the 13th hole, when he stepped off his second shot to remind fans to turn off their phones. Then he did it again. And again. When he finally hit the ball, it squirted left into trouble. He did well to walk off with bogey.

After his round, he expressed his frustration with the phones — and with his inability to block out the noise.

“You have to learn to deal with it,” he said. That was one side of it. “I don’t understand why you just can’t turn that little button on the side into silent,” he added. That was the other side. “I probably didn’t deal with it internally as well as I could have or as well as I need to.”

If you’re being charitable you could argue that the California crowds aren’t fully accustomed to being back out in crowds.

“I think we’ll give the fans a little break. They haven’t been out in a while,” Schauffele said. “But if they could silence their phones and the photos and everything, that would be great for us.”

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Their muting skills may have waned, while their desire to capture the action has never been higher — especially with a 51-year-old major champ in their midst.

“Yeah, it’s the video ding. They just kept going off,” Mickelson said of the incident at 13. “Look, it did it the next three or four shots thereafter, too, so it’s not like that was the first time, it’s just that I had to ask three times.”

Mickelson has long held a distaste for phone-abusing fans. At the Memorial in 2012, when phones were first approved for tournament viewers, Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem from the 6th fairway making his belief clear that the policing of cell phones was severely lacking. He shot seven-over 79 and withdrew after the round.

It makes sense that Mickelson would be particularly sensitive to sounds around him. For decades he’s been the People’s Golfer, drawing the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of any golfer not named Tiger Woods. (Remember the mob charge he inspired at Kiawah just weeks ago?)

Mickelson’s frustration was no doubt compounded by the fact that he wasn’t playing very well; this was hardly the homecoming game he had in mind. He bogeyed three of his first six holes — including the par-5 13th — and managed just one birdie en route to an opening 75. Still, he said he was optimistic about his position, with the cut line well within reach. There’s a long way to go.

As for the phone-wielding fans?

“You have to be able to let that go and not let it get to you and be able to kind of compose yourself and regather your thoughts and so forth,” he said. “But they certainly didn’t do me any favors, either.”

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