Whether it was the pressure of trying to complete the career grand slam or the pressure of Shinnecock’s fast and undulating greens, Phil Mickelson did something incredibly odd.
Mickelson made one of the most shocking breaches of the rules in recent golf history during the third round of the U.S. Open on Saturday, hitting a moving ball on the putting green before it rolled farther away.
Mickelson had a downhill bogey putt at the par-4 13th hole, and missed it badly on the right side. It was about to start rolling down another ridge when Mickelson ran after it and hit it back toward the hole. It was a jaw-dropping bit of nonsense from one of the most respected professionals in the game. He then missed the next putt and tapped in, having hit it eight times.
By hitting a moving ball, he breached rule 14-5, and was thus given a two-stroke penalty, taking a 10 on the hole.
Mickelson could have been disqualified if officials deemed his actions a serious breach of “conduct unbecoming of a professional.” But that was not the immediate case. Mickelson went on to play the rest of the round, often smiling and acknowledging the crowd — and occasionally trying unconventional shots just for the heck of it, like putting up a bank behind the hole on No. 14.
For a regular golf fan like myself, I did not find this as a “disrespectful” display. The ball was clearly going to roll off of the green and he would’ve most likely had the same score even if he had not hustle-putted. FOX announcer Joe Buck saying “hopefully this doesn’t damage his reputation” is absolutely laughable. This isn’t a story and nobody feels disrespected.
The most recent time something like this happened at a major tournament was John Daly at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, when he hit a moving ball on the green en route to an 83 and a dead-last finish. Daly was known for his wild antics and unprofessional demeanor — very much the antithesis of Mickelson.
It was also Mickelson’s 48th birthday, as the fan-favorite was being serenaded all over the course as he tried to get back into the tournament. Lefty started the day at 6-over, a full 10 shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. At the time of his rules breach, he had already fallen to 10-over for the tournament.
Mickelson has five major championships total, including three Masters, one British Open and one PGA Championship. He has finished runner-up in the U.S. Open a record six times, and he acknowledged that time was running out on his best chances to become just the sixth golfer in history to complete the career grand slam.
He put together a decent 1-under 69 on Friday to make the cut, but his putter was faulty all week and just never gave him a chance to contend.