Birthday boy Phil Mickelson, 48, threw the golf world into a tizzy on Saturday at the U.S. Open by pulling an incredibly controversial stunt on the 13th hole at Shinnecock Hills.
Mickelson putted for bogey at hole 13 when his score already stood at plus 10. The ball rolled quickly past the hole, and he walked over to it, and simply putted it back toward the cup, missing the hole yet again. The shocker was that the ball never stopped rolling before he hit it the second time. That a professional golfer would do something like that at one of professional golf’s biggest tournaments stunned everybody.
At first, people thought he either let his emotions get the best of him or something like that. Nobody even knew what would happen, but Mickelson walked along with his partner Andrew Johnston to hole 14, according to a Sports Illustrated report. By the end of the day, he was 11-over for the round and tied for 64th place, at 17-over for the tournament.
He finished round three of the U.S. Open and went in to sign his official scorecard, which took an exceedingly long time. Ultimately, USGA officials found that Mickelson broke rule 14-5, which states, “A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.”
However, Mickelson said what he did was more strategic than a simple error.
“No question, it was gonna come down in the same spot [as a previous shot] and go in the bunker. I wasn’t gonna have a shot. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to save a shot or whatnot, but I know it’s a two-stroke penalty. I could still be out there, potentially. I took two shots and got to play the next hole.”
Ultimately, he admitted he took advantage of the rules in order to get away from the 13th hole debacle he’d found himself in. However, there’s a problem with that, because golfers cannot break the rules in order to save themselves shots. Rule 1-2, states that players cannot “take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play.” Ultimately, a serious breach of the rule, which allows a golfer to gain an advantage from breaking the rules, results in disqualification.
However, Golf Channel reported that John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, commented on the issue.
“Phil didn’t purposely deflect or stop the ball. He played a moving ball. He made a stroke at a moving ball, which is explicitly covered under 14-5,” he said.
Many people believe what Phil Mickelson did was such a significant breach that he should not continue in the tournament. They feel the USGA applied the wrong rule to his penalty, and that Mickelson should drop out of the final round of the U.S. Open tomorrow.
He likely will not drop out, though, because his words for those offended by his actions were, “toughen up.”