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Golf stars welcome return of mobile phones at British Open

July 19, 2012 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
The mobile phone is becoming more and more prominent at sporting events, with spectators eager to share opinions and pictures via social media. The mobile phone is becoming more and more prominent at sporting events, with spectators eager to share opinions and pictures via social media.
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The rise of the phone
Open for business
Par for the course
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some of golf's best players back decision to allow mobile phones back into the British Open
  • The tournament banned mobiles from the course in 2006 but have relented this year
  • World No. 3 Lee Westwood agrees with the move saying phones are key for business

(CNN) -- Two of the world's top golfers have backed the R & A's decision to embrace technology by allowing spectators to bring mobile phones into this week's British Open.

The R & A, golf's rulemakers outside of the United States and Mexico and organizers of the sport's oldest major, have relented on a ban on phones which had been in place since 2006.

World No. 3 Lee Westwood, searching for his first triumph in one of golf's four majors in front of his home fans, says the ban was unrealistic in the modern age.

"We live in times when the mobile phone is a key tool in business affairs so I think we might deter people from attending if there is a ban," the 39-year-old, who has over 450,000 followers on Twitter, said in quotes released to CNN ahead of the 141st British Open.

"Obviously you don't want them ringing when you are about to take a shot, but in general golf followers tend to be mindful of a player's needs."

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Australia's Adam Scott has also backed the R & A's decision, but warned that fans will need to use their phones responsibly.

"Cell phones or smart phones are a part of life these days," said the world No.13 ahead of the tournament at The Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club on England's west coast.

"I don't have a problem with it. I just hope all spectators at the Open are considerate towards the players and put them on silent."

R & A head of communications Malcolm Booth explained how mobile phone use will only be allowed in specific zones, and that the move is part of the British Open welcoming new technology.

"It's absolutely something we're embracing," Booth told CNN. "We're not naïve or blind to the potential issues it could cause or the challenges which come with this policy.

"But we're excited our spectators will have access to more information than they've ever had on a golf course before. That can only heighten the experience of the Open championship."

The subject of mobile phone use during golf tournaments was raised after both four-time major winner Phil Mickelson and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson complained of spectators taking pictures during June's Memorial Tournament.

Despite the complaints from high-profile players, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem outlined how no ban on phones at events would be implemented.

Booth is hoping new technology designed for the British Open, which was won by Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke in 2011, will enhance the spectator experience.

"New for this year we have an ipad application," added Booth. "Allowing our spectators to have handheld devices on the golf course allows them to have up-to-the-minute scores.

"There is a new course guide we have for this year which uses GPS technology to show spectators and people who aren't at the event exactly where different groups are on the golf course."

"We're also going to have live coverage available in the UK through our apps, which is an exciting development."

The first round of the British Open tees off on Thursday, with the champion being crowned on Sunday.

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