By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Six-times Masters champion Jack Nicklaus once said he did not carry a mobile phone because people never called to offer him something, but only if they wanted something.
Times have changed since he made those remarks some two decades ago and these days Nicklaus is as wedded to his smartphone as billions of other people around the world.
The PGA Tour relented on its phone ban in 2011, asking spectators to put the devices on silent mode so as not to distract players. With occasional exceptions, the policy has worked smoothly.
But the Masters still bans such devices at Augusta National, and players have said that they find it a refreshing change.
Nicklaus, however, thinks the writing is on the wall, and that the tournament will end up following the PGA Tour’s lead.
“I think they probably will change that shortly,” Nicklaus, an Augusta National member, said on Thursday after hitting the ceremonial first tee shot to kick off the 83rd Masters.
“I think you should ask the PGA Tour if the cell phone has become a problem, or has it become something that’s so much of everyday life that people have learned how to respect it and use it properly.
“I understand exactly what’s going on here and I respect that but I think times have changed … but not my call.”
His comments came less than 24 hours after Masters chairman Fred Ridley reiterated the club’s strict policy on the matter.
“I think our patrons appreciate our cell phone policy,” said Ridley.
“I know that we have now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf.
“I don’t believe that’s a policy that anyone should expect is going to change in the near future, if ever.
“I can’t speak for future chairmen, but speaking for myself, I think we got that right.”
Given that Ridley is a fit and healthy 66-year-old, his tenure as chairman could last quite a while.
But Nicklaus thinks the old problem of players being put off when phones made a clicking sound taking pictures no longer exists.
“Doesn’t make a noise anymore,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a distraction from the gallery that ever affected what happened in the tournament.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar)