Four days removed from taking the controversial step of putting a ball moving quickly away from him back at a hole during the third round of the 2018 US Open, Phil Mickelson has reassessed his behavior. He now apologizes for what he did, incurring a two-stroke penalty from the USGA and the wrath of many golf fans who saw his action as a slap in the face of the game.
“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Mickelson said in a text message to a number of golf reporters, including Tim Rosaforte, Alan Shipnuck and Dave Shedloski. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”
On the 13th hole in Saturday’s third round, Mickelson hit a putt for bogey well past the hole, and the ball was quickly rolling toward the front of the green, where it no doubt would have ended up a number of yards shy of the putting surface. Noticing this, Mickelson ran to the ball and took a putting stroke at it in an attempt to keep it from sliding away and perhaps make the putt. Mickelson missed the attempt and took two more putts to record an 8.
Mickelson told playing partner Andrew Johnston, according to Beef’s recollection, he didn’t know what his score actually was from the hole, accounting for a penalty. The USGA chose to enforce Rule 14-5, which prohibits a player from hitting a moving ball, rather than Rule 1-2, which would have been in play had Rule 14-5 not superseded it. They gave him a two-stroke penalty and gave him a 10 for the hole. Mickelson finished with 81 on Saturday, his highest-ever round in the championship.
After the round, Mickelson spoke first with Fox Sports, then with reporters, about the incident. Mickelson indicated to Fox this was something he had thought about doing in the past, and he said he used Rule 14-5 in his favor rather than risking a higher score in needing to chip back up to the green and putt further. Mickelson’s statement contradicted what Johnston said, suggesting Mickelson wasn’t truly aware of the rule he was breaking or the penalty. Under Rule 28, Mickelson could have declared the moving ball unplayable once it came to rest and replayed the putt with a one-stroke penalty from the original spot. That would have indicated a better awareness of the Rules of Golf and how to use them to his advantage.
Mickelson initially apologized to those who were bothered and offended by why he did, but in the same breath he said those folks needed to “toughen up.”
On Tuesday at the Travelers Championship, Jason Day insinuated he thought Mickelson should have been disqualified.
“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”
Jordan Spieth, on the other hand, didn’t have a problem with Mickelson’s antics.
“I laughed, I thought it was really funny,” Spieth said, adding, “Phil knows the rules. There was a chance it was going to go back behind the bunker and he’s got to chip back, or he was going to play off the green anyways, so he was potentially saving himself a shot. So if that was the intent, then what’s the harm in that? He’s playing the best score he can.”
It’s unclear how fans will react to this apology, but Mickelson will have a few weeks off before appearing again on the PGA Tour.