Mickelson Incurs 2-Stroke Penalty For “Boneheaded” Mistake

Another week on the PGA Tour, another Phil Mickelson rules controversy this time at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.

With his tournament fate already decided, Phil Mickelson began working on shots that would benefit him over the next two weeks when he will be in Scotland for the Scottish Open and Open Championship — a low-launching iron from the tee. Playing the 7th hole at the Old White TPC, Mickelson was preparing to hit his tee shot when he stepped off the front of the tee box and stepped down some fescue that could have impacted his ball flight. 

Mickelson broke Rule 13-2, which states in part that a player may not improve the area of their intended stance, swing or line of play by  “moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed” and “creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,” which Mickelson did by stepping down the grass in front of the tee box.

As explained to Mickelson by the rules official, had he simply moved his tee to a different part of the tee box where he had not improved his intended line of play, he would have avoided the penalty.

“I wasn’t really thinking, I just had a few bonehead moves today,” Mickelson said after the round. “You can move things on the tee box, but I’m working on this really low shot for the next two weeks and there was some fescue in front that I stepped on. Right when I did it, I thought, ‘oh my goodness, that might be a penalty.’

“I told my (playing) partner and we asked Robby the rules official and sure enough, it was. It’s just one of those things. I just wasn’t really paying attention or thinking. If it were on the tee box, no problem, but it wasn’t. It was a foot in front. You take your penalty and you move on. It’s happened before, not just at the Open, but other times. A lot of times guys just inadvertently do things, and I just wasn’t thinking.”

While the ruling had little or no influence on the outcome of the event, Golf Channel analysts Brandel Chamblee and John Cook were concerned about Mickelson’s focus and how he’s playing getting into the latter half of a Ryder Cup year.