Phil Mickelson doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in the USGA and how they will present Pebble Beach Golf Links in next month’s 2019 US Open. He laid that opinion bare on Thursday after his first round at the 2019 Memorial Tournament.
“I’ve played, what, 29 US Opens. One hundred percent of time they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain,” Mickelson said.
He suggested the only time the US Open setup has been done correctly — which is as subjective a measure as there is in golf — in the three decades he’s played in the event was when it rained.
“The rain is the governor. That’s the only governor they have,” he said. “And if they don’t have a governor they don’t know how to control themselves. And so ’92 [at Pebble Beach] — I think it even rained in ’92 a little bit. It rained Thursday and Friday at Shinnecock in ’04. Rain is the governor. If it doesn’t rain, a hundred percent of the time it will be messed up.”
Coincidentally, of Mickelson’s record-setting six runner-up finishes in the US Open, it rained in four: 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2, in 2002 and 2009 at Bethpage Black, in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills (before the weekend setup debacle). It rained heavily before the 2013 US Open at Merion.
While Mickelson was blunt in his expectations for the Open at Pebble, he was positive about the Rules of Golf change allowing players to repair spike mark damage. Mickelson believes that change will be welcomed at Pebble Beach, whose poa annua greens are often spongy and don’t take high traffic well toward the end of the day.
“When we played in 2010, the poa annua was soft, spongy, we had all kinds of holes and cleat marks and so forth. At the speeds they were at it was impossible to try to putt, it was putting like a waffle iron,” he said. “This year with the rules change where we’re able to fix the impurities with the spike holes and impressions, I don’t see that being a problem this year. I think that’s been the biggest, most positive change is the ability [to fix spike marks]. To be able to tap that down and smooth it out from inside of five or six feet makes it different for the afternoon play. And at Pebble I think that would be the biggest opportunity for it to be an issue and I think that the rules change will nullify it.”