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Mickelson on U.S. Open controversy: 'Toughen up'

By Ryan LavnerJune 16, 2018, 9:26 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson had a birthday to forget Saturday at the U.S. Open.

In one of his most bizarre moments in a career full of them, Mickelson intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th hole to prevent it from racing off the front of the green. He was docked two shots under Rule 14-5 – and recorded a 10 on the hole – and then defiantly stated afterward that he knew the rules and decided that he’d rather take the penalty than play Ping-Pong around the severely undulating green at Shinnecock Hills.

“At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over,” he said after shooting a third-round 81, which matched his career-worst score at the U.S. Open. “I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.”

On his 48th birthday, Mickelson was already 4 over par for the day when he found trouble on the 366-yard 13th, which has played as one of the most difficult holes at Shinnecock this week.

After misfiring long with his approach, his pitch shot carried over the green, then he chipped past the flag again. When his 15-footer for bogey raced past the cup, and appeared on the verge of racing off the front of the green, Mickelson jogged to catch up with his ball, then swatted it back toward the hole.



“No question, it was going to go down in the same spot behind the bunker,” he said. “I wasn’t going to have a shot.”

His playing partner, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, stared at Mickelson in disbelief.

“I said, ‘That’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen,’ and then just started laughing,” Johnston said. “I think it’s just a moment of madness.”

Mickelson walked off the green with an 8, then was told by a rules official that he’d be assessed a two-shot penalty for playing a moving ball. He said afterward that he was just using the rules to his advantage.


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“In that situation, I was just going back and forth,” he said. “I would gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

But social media erupted at what was perceived as a serious breach of etiquette by Mickelson, one of the most beloved players in the game.

John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, said that the rules committee decided that Rule 1-2 did not apply – because “Phil didn’t purposely deflect or stop the ball,” such as stopping a ball from going out of bounds – and thus spared Mickelson from disqualification.

“He didn’t deflect it or stop it,” Bodenhamer said. “He played a moving ball. He made a stroke at a moving ball, which is explicitly covered under 14-5.”

Mickelson said that disrespecting the game wasn’t his intent, that he didn’t think the move would damage his reputation, and that any fans or players who were offended by his actions needed to “toughen up.”

“If somebody is offended by that, I apologize to them, but toughen up,” he said, “because this is not meant that way. I just wanted to get on to the next hole, and I didn’t see that happening at the time. I’d gladly take my two strokes and move on.”

Mickelson said that he’s wanted to accept this penalty on other occasions in his career – including some years on the 15th hole at the Masters, when his ball would run off into the creek – but that with this particular hole location Saturday, “I could still be out there, potentially.”

So was the pin on 13 fair?

“Everybody has to play it,” he said. “I was playing it worse than most, and I wanted to get to the next hole eventually, which I did.”

Mickelson’s stunning smack was reminiscent of John Daly’s outburst during the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. After the same two-shot penalty, he made an 11 on the hole and claimed afterward that his penalty was in protest against the USGA for setting so many dicey hole locations.

But with the USGA on the verge of losing Shinnecock, again, because of unplayable conditions in the third round, Mickelson didn’t rail against the setup. Instead, he described it as “certainly a lot harder today,” and added that he’ll continue to relish the challenge of playing the U.S. Open even if “sometimes it gets a bit goofy.”

The incident didn’t seem to dim Mickelson’s enthusiasm. As he headed toward the scoring cabin, he offered wry smiles, high-fived the fans lining the barricades and gave a few thumbs-up. He remained in scoring for nearly a half hour – he said he was refueling after a long day on the course – before facing dozens of reporters and cameramen.

When Mickelson was done explaining one of the most bizarre decisions of his legendary career, he scribbled autographs, made small talk with fans and nodded along to the music. The crowd was singing, “Happy Birthday.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”