We are a couple of days removed from Phil Mickelson's U.S. Open outburst and its not aging well, nor is the USGA's timid response earning raves either. I hate belaboring this as a Phil fan but the reaction to this incident mirrors a disturbing justification for rules bending we've seen with the backstopping nonsense.
In Mickelson's case, the media and former player reactions have been harsh.
Having had a chance to do some reading, here's a presentation of just some reactions to Mickelson striking a moving ball in what he claimed was his intent to take advantage of the rules after hitting an awful putt. I present this with a poll awaiting at the end asking a very simple question.
The USGA "clarified" confusion over the Phil Mickelson situation Sunday, as Jeff Williams notes for Newsday. The statement ignored the serious breach of etiquette talk you hear from former players appalled by Mickelson's actions, starting with Paul Azinger to start Sunday's Fox broadcast.
And to be clear: The USGA took a rain check at every opportunity to slap Phil with a line about not finding his antics to be living up to the spirit of the game. According to Amy Mickelson, her husband offered to WD and the USGA either declined or discouraged the action. Beth Ann Nichols also notes a curious quote from Phil before ducking more questions.
Mickelson's post-round explanation appears to have backfired based on media reaction. My Golfweek column received much pushback for suggesting Mickelson's legacy might be tainted by the incident. I'm sticking by my stance. A surprising number suggested Mickelson's legacy gave him the right to mis-behave.
Kyle Porter asks if this is what we want golf to be and makes this amongst many vital points:
So Mickelson wriggles through a preposterous loophole (not his first or last loophole wriggle!) because he pulled his club back and made a stroke. Maybe I'm wrong, but Rule 14-5 does not appear to have been created for this type of situation. That's why Rule 1-2 exists.
John Feinstein wonders for Golf World why the USGA did not go after Mickelson for an etiquette breach.
One last piece of rules mumbo-jumbo: Rule 33-7 is the catch-all here. It gives the committee the wherewithal to disqualify a player it if believes a serious breach has been committed but also to not disqualify a player if it believes there are mitigating circumstances.
It was 33-7 that Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, then the chairman of the championship committee for the Masters, fell back on in 2013 in deciding not to disqualify Tiger Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard after the second round that year.
Ian O'Connor of ESPN.com called for Phil to WD and summed up the debacle like this:
The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Mickelson turned the one major championship he has failed to win into a mini-golf misadventure, minus the windmill and clown's mouth. Now it's time for him to pick up his ball and go home.
Brian Wacker at GolfDigest.com:
In the end, though, Mickelson’s actions—and words—made him look lamer than those button downs, rather than the smartest guy in the room.
“I don’t believe he really knows that rule,” the USGA’s former chief executive David Fay said on Fox of Mickelson. “I think his explanation made things complicated. I would’ve thought long and hard about it and after hearing everything I’ve heard I would’ve lobbied for disqualification.”
Eamon Lynch at Golfweek with a superb read on Mickelson's career Grand Slam effectively ending with his Shinnecock performance.
In that single stroke, Mickelson’s carefully constructed veneer fell away, the years of pained diplomacy and outward optimism with which he greeted every failed, painful tilt at the national Open. It was a quiet scream, seen but not heard.
So it's a simple question that probably is easier in hindsight given Mickelson's tone and admission of a calculated effort to bend, if not break the rules. And probably even easier given the USGA's coddling of a player not living up to basic standards for play. But here goes...