IRVING, Texas – Golf hit for the cycle this week with news that Phil Mickelson has been cleared of any criminal activity in an SEC investigation, Muirfield Golf Club’s membership vote will cost the layout a foreseeable Open, and the world Nos. 2 and 3 remind the golf world that it’s not a one-horse race.
Objects are closer than they appear. It’s been a good week for those who savor parity.
After missing the cut at TPC Sawgrass, Jordan Spieth bounced back with rounds of 64-65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson for a share of the early lead on Friday
During the same news cycle, Rory McIlroy opened with rounds of 67-70 at the Irish Open and is just a stroke off the lead in his quest to win for the first time in 2016.
Jason Day ascended to a new level with his victory last week at The Players and solidified his stranglehold on the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, leading some to proclaim the Jason era upon us.
Less than a week later, Spieth and McIlroy proved yet again that golf is at its best when the top players are at their best. Turns out the guys that kept telling us they were close, really were.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Insider moments. It was an eventful week for Phil Mickelson.
On Wednesday, Lefty was named host of the CareerBuilder Challenge, taking over for former U.S. President Bill Clinton in an attempt by the PGA Tour to breathe new life into an event that is wedged into a difficult spot on the international schedule.
Less than 24 hours later, Mickelson was named a “relief defendant” in a Securities and Exchange Commission case against Las Vegas investor and gambler Billy Walters and Thomas Davis, the former chairman of Dean Foods.
Thursday’s filing was vindication of sorts for Mickelson, who agreed to pay back the money he earned ($931,000 plus interest) from his purchase of Dean Foods stock prior to an upcoming spin-off announcement.
“The complaint does not assert that Phil Mickelson violated the securities laws in any way. On that point, Phil feels vindicated,” Mickelson’s lawyer said in a statement. “At the same time, however, Phil has no desire to benefit from any transaction that the SEC sees as questionable.”
Few things can tarnish a reputation, particularly a reputation that has been as carefully crafted as Mickelson’s, like a white-collar crime allegation, but give Lefty credit for mitigating the damage.
Members only. Two hundred and seventy-one years of history are hard to ignore. Despite an avalanche of public opinion against them you have to acknowledge that the 36 percent of Muirfield Golf Club members who voted against allowing females to join the club have the right to run their private course however they see fit.
Yet while some viewed Thursday’s vote, which fell 14 votes shy of passing, to allow women members as a blow to a game that continues to struggle with an elitist reputation, it is the reaction that should give those who want the game to grow encouragement.
The R&A swiftly and decisively removed Muirfield from the Open rotation, sending a strong message to other clubs – most notably Royal Troon, which will host this year’s championship and also doesn’t allow female members.
The members' vote spoke loudly, but the R&A’s reaction made a much more meaningful statement.
Tweet of the week: @Beany25 (Catriona Matthew) “Embarrassed to be a Scottish women golfer from East Lothian after that decision.”
Thursday’s vote set social media abuzz, but Matthew’s take was the most poignant.
Wentworth woes. Just when it seemed that only PGA Tour events were taking a hit this year because of the crowded golf calendar, the European Tour’s flagship event was beset by a series of high profile no-shows.
McIlroy opted not to play next week’s BMW PGA Championship after three consecutive weeks on the road, including this week’s Irish Open, which he is hosting.
On Thursday, Justin Rose announced he would miss the event at Wentworth because of a back issue, and Ernie Els told Cut Line that he is also skipping the event to spend time with his daughter, who recently celebrated her 17th birthday.
This season’s condensed schedule has taken a toll on the global golf calendar, not just those events inside the Lower 48.
The voice. For many golf fans around the world, Peter Alliss is the voice of golf, all of which makes his comments regarding Thursday’s members vote at Muirfield that much more baffling.
Alliss told The Telegraph, “The fact is if you talked to the wives of members of Muirfield they would be horrified at the prospect of being allowed to join.”
He went on to say that women members wouldn’t want to pay club fees and even suggested that an “open letter” sent to members prior to the vote was written by a woman.
Club officials said the open letter, which was signed by 33 members, likely led to the defeat of the proposal.
“The introduction of lady members is bound to create difficulties,” the letter read, according to The Telegraph. “They are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements. It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them.”
There is no shortage of reasons to question Muirfield’s all-male membership policy, but the most pressing question we have is what are they serving for lunch that the addition of females would ruin?