Phil Mickelson didn’t do anything to repair his rocky relationship with the United States Golf Association on Wednesday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am when speaking about the recently-released Distance Insights Report.
Despite admitting that he hadn’t had the opportunity to read the document and prefacing his response that he may not be the best person to comment on its contents, Mickelson went ahead and commented anyway.
“I didn’t really read anything tangible from the report. I only saw that they didn’t want each generation to continue getting longer and longer,” Mickelson said. “I also don’t feel that you should punish the athletes for getting better. I don’t think we’ve had massive equipment changes, we’ve just had athletes who’ve been able to take advantage of the equipment — more so than in the past — and I hate to see that discouraged.”
Mickelson pointed to a popular whipping boy of late, Bryson DeChambeau, as someone who has taken it upon himself to put in the work to see more significant gains in distance.
“You look at what Bryson has done getting in the gym, getting after it, lifting weights, and hitting bombs, and now you’re talking about trying to roll it back because he’s made himself a better athlete,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know if I agree with that.”
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Talking about the bigger picture, Mickelson said he didn’t understand the agronomical impacts that distance is having on courses around the world, but in the small bubble of the PGA Tour, he didn’t like “seeing the athletes be punished or discouraged from continuing to work and get better.”
After answering a few questions about hitting bombs, the report resurfaced and Mickelson took a shot at the USGA in the process of answering a question about the possibility of a local rule that could result in distance-reducing equipment.
“I think the best players will still find ways to win. They might not do it by overpowering the golf course with driver, but they will find ways to do it with their iron play or what have you. I think the best players will always kind of find a way to win and do what it takes,” Mickelson said. “I struggle with some of our governing bodies. I struggle with it because we’re the only professional sport in the world that is governed by a group of amateurs, and that leads to some questionable directions that we go down. I wish that we had people that are involved in the sport professionally to be in charge a little bit more.”
Mickelson, the defending champion this week, tees off at 11:22 a.m. EST on Thursday at Spyglass Hill. He will play Monterey Peninsula on Friday and Pebble Beach on Saturday alongside former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young.