Strictly speaking, no cells at Augusta

Published April 5, 2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. - As they always do, fans flocked onto the grounds at Augusta National at 8 a.m. Monday, hoping to get a glimpse of one of the most famous golf courses in the world, perhaps watch a few practice rounds and buy souvenirs.

But when they entered, there was something new: a gate twice the size of the old one, with metal detectors designed to nab cell phones.

The Masters, which begins Thursday, has a strict policy against the use of cell phones on the ground, even during practice rounds. Anyone who has one at the gate must either check it or take it back to their car. Anyone caught using one on the grounds can have their ticket revoked.

Cameras are allowed only during practice rounds.

JACK BACK FOR 45TH?: Nobody would be surprised if Jack Nicklaus decided to sit out the Masters. The six-time champion said in the aftermath of his grandson Jake 's drowning death last month that he likely would not have the time to commit to getting ready. Nicklaus, 65, has not played in an official PGA Tour event since May's Memorial. He has made two visits to Augusta National in recent weeks, was honored by the city of Augusta on Monday night and has an 11 a.m. news conference scheduled for today. His name was listed in the Augusta media center as one of the participants. If Nicklaus plays, it will be his 45th appearance in the tournament.

OTHER COMMITMENTS: Phil Mickelson wasn't practicing at Augusta National on Monday, but not to worry. The defending Masters champion, who was finishing the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, got in plenty of work at Augusta National. He spent two days here before the Players Championship, returned for a 10-hour session with short-game guru Dave Pelz last week before the BellSouth Classic and had planned all along to take today off.

Mickelson, who implemented a new major-championship preparation scheme last year, said it was important to be at Augusta when few other competitors were around.

"It's hard for me to get some of my practice rounds in when we have a lot of other guys playing," he said. "Because it takes me seven, eight hours to get some of the stuff done and it's not fair to everybody else to be holding them up."

NO MONTY: Count 1991 Masters champion Ian Woosnam among those who believe Augusta National should have extended a special invitation to Scotland's Colin Montgomerie , who was 54th in the world ranking and did not make the field.

"He's one of the great golfers over the last 15 years, and it's a shame," said Woosnam, who will captain next year's European Ryder Cup team. "It's a pity he has not got it, really. I think he's played good enough to deserve an invitation."