PALM HARBOR — The PGA Tour is going to allow spectators to bring cell phones on the course for every tour event this season, starting with the Honda Classic March 3-6 in Palm Beach Gardens. That means security will have a new challenge at the Transitions Championship, which is March 17-20 at Innisbrook Golf Resort.
Fans are allowed to bring cell phones onto the course, but they must be set on silent and no picture taking or video is allowed. There will be areas on the course where cell phone calls and texting will be allowed.
"We're going to have to pay extra attention now on cell phone usage,'' Transtions security director Bill Doniel said. "There will be signage throughout the course about it, and we'll have hole captains making sure people don't take their cell phones out to take pictures during a swing. Most people that come to tournaments are golfers themselves so they know about courtesy. But I'm sure there will be times when we have to politely ask them to put their cell phones away.''
Former PGA Tour player and NBC golf analyst Gary Koch said the change in policy makes sense.
"Just about everyone carries cell phones now,'' Koch said. "If you don't allow cell phones, that means they might not want to go to the tournament. It makes a lot of sense to try this.''
The PGA Tour tested cell phone usage at five events in 2010 and '11 before coming up with its policy. The policy affects only PGA Tour events, not the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA Championship.
Field growing: Commitments are starting to flood in for the 2011 tournament. As expected, defending champion Jim Furyk will return. Also returning are former Transitions winners Retief Goosen, Sean O'Hair, K.J. Choi, Mark Calcavecchia and Carl Pettersson. Vijay Singh, the 2004 champion, has not officially committed but Transitions representatives believe he will soon. Italian Matteo Manassero and Spainard Alvaro Quiros were both given a sponsor's exemption. World ranked No. 2 player Martin Kaymer was granted a commissioner's foreign exemption. Other notable players committed include Rocco Mediate, Justin Leonard, Bubba Watson, Chris DiMarco and Tampa's Ryuji Imada. One player not in the tournament so far is Tiger Woods, who hasn't played at Innisbrook since 1996 when it was a mixed team event.
Hole in one challenge: Want to win $1 million? The Transitions Championship is going to give 14 players a chance. Any golfer who makes an ace at one of 99 participating Tampa Bay area courses between Saturday and March 4 will have an opportunity to make a $1 million hole-in-one on the par 3 17th hole after the completion of play on Saturday. If there are more than 14 players who make an ace during that time frame, a shootout will be held on Saturday afternoon to whittle the field down to 14. All players who make a hole-in-one during the two-week span will receive a free ticket and parking pass for Saturday's round. For information, call any area golf course or the Transitions Championship at (727) 942-5557.