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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: Dechambeau simulates dew on East Lake range

By Grill Room TeamSeptember 18, 2018, 11:02 pm

Bryson DeChambeau has certainly lived up to his nickname of "Mad Scientist" since joining the PGA Tour, using his eccentric style to win four events, including the first two tournaments of this year's FedExCup Playoffs.

And he's staying on brand at the season-ending Tour Championship, where he enters as the favorite to capture the FedExCup title.

The 24-year-old was spotted on the East Lake range Tuesday, preparing for potential morning dew on the golf ball this week - by having a member of his team spray each golf ball between practice shots:

While this type of preparation might come off as a little excessive to the average golfer, it's rather mild for DeChambeau, considering that in the last two weeks alone he has discussed undergoing muscle activation tests and measuring his brain waves.

DeChambeau goes off with Justin Rose on Thursday at 2 p.m. He could finish as low as T-29 and still have a mathematical chance of winning the season-long FedExCup.

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Fewer goals but more consistency for Thomas in 2018

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

ATLANTA – After winning last year’s FedExCup, Justin Thomas was asked about his goals for the season and he quickly went to his phone.

A list of 13 “goals” had been typed in, a rundown that ranged from qualifying for the Tour Championship to finishing in the top 10 in half of the circuit’s statistical categories. Nearly every goal had a “Y” next to it to denote he’d accomplished what he wanted.

Thomas was asked on Tuesday at East Lake how his goals are shaping up this season.

“I haven't looked in a while. I really haven't. I'm sure if I had to guess, I'm probably around 50 to 60, 70 percent [have been completed],” he said. “I definitely haven't achieved near as many as I did the previous year. But we still have one week left to knock a big goal off.”


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Thomas pointed out that although he didn’t add to his major total this season or win as many times as he did last year, he still feels like he’s been more consistent this year.

He has more top-25 finishes (19) than he did last year (14), missed fewer cuts (two compared to six last season) and has improved in nearly every major statistical category.

“It's been a really consistent year, and I take a lot of pride in that,” Thomas said. “That's a big goal of mine is to improve every year and get better every year, so if I can continue in this direction, I feel like I can do some pretty great things the rest of my career.”

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Woods' probation for reckless driving ends one month early

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 9:00 pm

Tiger Woods' year-long probation stemming from last year's DUI arrest has been terminated a month early.

According to Sam Smink of WPTV, Woods, 42, was let off probation early for successfully completing all regular and special conditions of his probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and entering a diversion program last October.

Under the conditions of the program, Woods was required to pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. He was also subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the program.

The 14-time major champ was arrested on charges of DUI in May of 2017 after he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his parked Mercedes-Benz in Jupiter, Fla.

Although tests showed Woods was not under the influence of alcohol at the time, he admitted to taking several pain and sleep medications to cope with his fourth back surgery which was performed in April.

Since his arrest, Woods has returned to competition, rising to 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking after a pain-free campaign in 2018.

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Players wrapping their heads around FedEx changes

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 8:01 pm

ATLANTA – Even players who have known the details of the PGA Tour’s plan to dramatically change the way it crowns a FedExCup champion were still digesting the details on Tuesday at the Tour Championship.

“I think it’s maybe easier to follow for people at home. Kind of definitely strange and very different to be on 10 under par starting on the first tee,” said Justin Rose, who begins this week’s finale second on the points list.

Next year when a new strokes-based system will decide the season-long race, Rose would begin his week at East Lake 8 under, two strokes behind front-runner Bryson DeChambeau and eight shots ahead of Nos. 26-30 on the points list.

Most players said the new format will be an improvement over the current model, which is based on a complicated points structure. That’s not to say the new plan has been given universal support.


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Under the current format, the 30th-ranked player has a .4 percent chance of winning the cup, while the first player on the points list has a 27 percent chance. Those odds remain virtually identical under next year’s strokes-based format.

“I’m not saying the 30th guy should have the same shot as the fifth guy, but just make the odds a little bit better. Give them a 5 percent chance,” Billy Horschel said. “The strokes could be distributed differently. Maybe put the leader at 6 under [instead of 10 under] and then you go down to even par. Five or six shots back, over four days, you still have a chance.”

There will no doubt be a period of adjustment, but after more than three years of planning, most players were pleased with the general elements of the new plan if not all of the details.

“It's never going to be perfect,” said Justin Thomas, last year’s FedExCup champion and a member of the player advisory council. “No system in any sport is ever going to be perfect, and the Tour has done such a great job of talking to us and trying to get it as good as possible. But it's just hard to understand the fact that you could be starting behind somebody else and still somehow win a golf tournament or an official win.”