AUGUSTA, Ga. – Depending on who you ask, it’s either the most endearing part of the Masters or its most frustrating aspect.
Anyone that sets foot on the grounds at Augusta National Golf Club this week must leave their cell phones behind, ditching technology to enter what sometimes feels like a time machine. Even the digital cameras and still photography, allowed during the early-week practice rounds, become forbidden once the opening round begins Thursday.
It can pose a burden for those consumed with the digital age who live with their phones glued to one hand or the other, but for several players it’s a welcome change as one potential variable is eliminated when the stakes are at their highest.
“Playing a practice round yesterday, I said to (caddie) Harry (Diamond) out there, ‘How good is it that people aren’t looking at their phones?’” McIlroy said. “Yes, there are people with cameras, but they don’t constantly have their face in the device. It’s refreshing.”
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“It’s nice, isn’t it?” added four-time champ Tiger Woods. “This event is so different, and it’s so unique. It’s pure golf. You know, just the player and caddie out there playing. We’re prepping together and there’s no other distractions inside the ropes.”
While Augusta National has held firm on their anti-phone stance for several years, politely asking patrons to leave their devices in the parking lot while offering courtesy phone banks around the course, three-time champ Phil Mickelson could see the rules being relaxed in the not-too-distant future.
“I think when we first went to that rule years ago, allowing cell phones on the course (at PGA Tour events), I was certainly worried. But it increased the fan experience so much that I’ve kind of changed my thought on it,” Mickelson said. “I think at some point, the knowledge base of the fans here will be such where they will be able to have their phones, because they will have it on silent and it won’t affect play at all.”