AUGUSTA, Ga. – Of all the players who have weighed in on Lexi Thompson’s four-stroke penalty at the ANA Inspiration, not one has accused her of intentionally replacing her ball in the wrong spot.
But the topic did cause Phil Mickelson to address a situation he’s unhappy with on the PGA Tour during a Masters pre-tournament press conference.
“Rather than address that specific instance,” Mickelson said, “what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball have not been called on it. I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth, and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.”
Mickelson went on to say that the situation should be handled within the PGA Tour, warning players that they need to be more precise marking their ball.
As for Thompson’s situation, Mickelson felt that given all the factors in play – viewers calling, marking a 1-foot putt loosely with really no advantage, something he said happens all the time “intentionally and unintentionally” – the call should be reversed.
“I think (Thompson) should be given the trophy,” he said.
Later in the day Jack Nicklaus was asked to weigh in on Mickelson’s comments about players who are lax in marking their golf ball. Nicklaus said he was always careful, as integrity is an integral part of the game.
“We govern ourselves,” Nicklaus said. “We call rules on ourselves.”
As for protecting the rest of the field, Nicklaus said on three separate occasions he dealt with cheating on the PGA Tour.
“Three occasions we took it quietly to the director of the tournament and got out of it,” Nicklaus said. “Nothing was ever said publicly about it.”
Nicklaus said that while it’s a player’s obligation to report a blatant rules violation, it’s best to bring it up quietly. At a recent Presidents Cup, for example, there was such a situation in which Nicklaus was involved.
“They just got the captains together and had a little conversation with the young man,” said Nicklaus, “and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.”
Nicklaus went to say that in the case of Thompson, he did not believe she tried to do anything malicious.
“I don’t think that’s the way she was brought up or the way she would play,” Nicklaus said. “And so I think it just happened to be a mistake.”