Phil Mickelson may have snapped during the third round at the U.S. Open. Four-over par for his round and 10-over par for the tournament, Mickelson faced a slippery seven-footer for bogey on the 13th hole. When the ball missed on the low side of the hole, Mickelson jogged after it and struck his sixth stroke while the ball was still moving.
Bizarre to see Mickelson laughing about it after making the last putt pic.twitter.com/5kVxt8AnDq
— Born Salty (@cjzero) June 16, 2018
The penalty for striking a ball while it’s still moving is two strokes, so Mickelson was conservatively given a 5-over par score of nine on the hole. It has since been changed to a 10.
As if his antics on the 13th hole weren’t enough, Phil doubled down on the 14th, hitting a long birdie putt from some 45 feet well past the hole onto a ridge to bring the putt back towards the hole, which he made for par.
Phil’s out there doing trick putts, he’s mailed it in pic.twitter.com/Ndkwg3uAFD
— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) June 16, 2018
The Fox Sports crew, which includes former PGA of America executive director David Fay, was at a loss for words during the demonstration. Their initial reaction was that Mickelson would incur the two-stroke penalty for striking a moving ball, but the definitive ruling came down from the USGA themselves.
— USGA (@USGA) June 16, 2018
Speaking after his round, Mickelson explained his rationale.
“At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over,” Mickelson said to a large group of assembled media. “I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.”
While there were some questions over Mickelson’s intent to break the rule, therefore incurring a “serious breach” under Rule 1-2, the USGA explained that 1-2 has an exception written into it that says if another rule covers the penalty then 1-2’s penalties are superseded.
NO DQ for Phil. The USGA applied rule 14-5 instead of 1-2, ruling he "made a stroke" at it instead of "taking action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play."
Weird thing: if he'd stopped it instead of hitting it, would likely be 1-2 and a DQ. https://t.co/WVcodBepSb
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) June 16, 2018
“He didn’t deflect it or stop it,” John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, said. “He played a moving ball. He made a stroke at a moving ball, which is explicitly covered under 14-5.”
Phil had a simple message for anyone who felt he compromised the integrity of the championship: toughen up.
“If somebody is offended by that, I apologize to them, but toughen up,” he said, “This is not meant that way. I just wanted to get on to the next hole, and I didn’t see that happening at the time. I’d gladly take my two strokes and move on.”
What do you think of the situation? Let us know in the comments.