DUBLIN, Ohio – Two left-handers set out on the first tee Sunday afternoon at Muirfield Village, one in search of his third victory of 2014, at the exact moment a third southpaw made his way up the 18th hole to complete what could only be described as an eventful week in central Ohio.
Bubba Watson and Scott Langley’s fate awaited as they made their way out in the day’s final pairing, but for Phil Mickelson the journey was over. And thankfully so.
“Interesting,” Mickelson said on Saturday when asked about his day, but it might as well have been his take for the entire week. “Most of my rounds are, but just for other reasons.”
As unsightly as his closing 73 and his tie for 49th place may have looked, it was what happened away from the manicured fairways that will define Lefty’s 14th start at the Memorial Tournament.
Two separate reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times revealed on Friday that Mickelson was a subject of an investigation by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission involving possible insider trading.
After his round on Saturday Mickelson was inundated with questions about the report. He maintained his innocence and, at the request of his attorneys, declined to answer any further questions regarding the investigation.
“I can’t really go into much right now, but as I said in my statement, I have done absolutely nothing wrong. And that's why I've been fully cooperating with the FBI agents, and I'm happy to do so in the future, too, until this gets resolved,” Mickelson said. “Hopefully it will be soon, but for right now I can't really talk much about it.”
Mickelson’s week started well enough with the 42-time PGA Tour winner playing his first 15 holes on Thursday in 5 under par. Things unraveled when he closed his round bogey-double bogey-double bogey and just kept getting worse.
Mickelson was approached by two federal agents after his round to answer more questions regarding the investigation, but he declined to comment and referred them to his attorney, according to the WSJ report.
The Wall Street Journal reported authorities are “examining a series of well-timed trades” involving Mickelson, high-profile Las Vegas gambler William “Billy” Walters and investor Carl Icahn.
Neither Mickelson, Walters nor Icahn has been accused of any wrongdoing.
Mickelson responded with his best round of the week on Saturday (2-under 70) and said after his round he was pleased with the way he’d been driving the ball as he prepares for the U.S. Open in two weeks at Pinehurst.
He echoed those comments after his round on Sunday, but added next week’s St. Jude Classic would be the real test of his game on the eve of the one major championship that has eluded him.
“What's important for me, obviously I didn't have a shot at it this weekend or today, but I really need to get in contention next week,” said Mickelson, who planned to spend the next two days at Pinehurst No. 2 preparing for the year’s second major.
“I'll be trying really hard to get myself a run at it, to have a good tournament. I do need a little bit of momentum . . . I need to feel that again this week to really give myself a good chance at the U.S. Open.”
The distinction between what happened on the golf course compared to the surreal events that transpired away from it was evident when Mickelson was asked to assess his week.
“From a golf standpoint it wasn't a bad week as far as I started to hit the ball well,” Mickelson said. “I struggled a little bit in some areas. I started working the ball a lot more with some iron shots. I had, I thought a successful week as far as a good stepping stone.”