Phil Mickelson’s birthday has taken a stunning turn.
The 48-year-old was already 4 over on his third round at the U.S. Open when he did something unbelievable on the green at Shinnecock Hills’ par-4 13th … he intentionally hit a ball while it was still moving.
That is almost unheard of.
Mickelson doing that means deliberately accepting a two-shot penalty. After the round, he admitted he did so because his ball was going to roll off the front of the green if he didn’t act.
“No question it was going to go down into the same spot behind the bunker, wasn’t going to have a shot,” Mickelson said afterward on Fox. “I don’t know if I would’ve been able to save a shot or whatnot, but I know it’s a two-shot penalty, hitting a moving ball. I tried to hit it as close to the hole as I could to make the next one, and you take the two shots and you move on.”
Interesting strategy that didn’t totally work out.
Anyway, here’s the stunning footage…
And yeah, the commentators were understandably shocked.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in a U.S. Open. John Daly hit a moving ball in protest of unfair pins at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Daly would make an 11 (after the two-shot penalty) on that par-4 eighth on his way to a final-round 13-over 83.
Mickelson’s was more tactical, and he ended up taking a sextuple-bogey 10 on the way to an 11-over 81.
Was what he did on No. 13 disrespecting the rules and the game? His thoughts:
“I don’t mean disrespect by anybody. I know it’s a two-shot penalty, and at that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty, moved on,” Mickelson said. “It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that, I just finally did.”
Playing competitor Andrew Johnston is still not sure what he saw.
“I was watching the ball go past. You saw, he ran and hit it. … I looked at him and said, ‘Is this actually happening?’” Johnston said. “But honestly, I looked at him and I said to him, ‘Sorry, I can’t help but laugh at that. That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.’ I’ve never seen anything like it.”
There was plenty of chatter on social media that Mickelson should’ve been disqualified.
The USGA clarified on Twitter that Rule 14-5 (playing a moving ball) is the one that Mickelson broke and why he got a two-shot penalty.
But Rule 14-5 also notes to see Rule 1-2 if a moving ball is purposely deflected or stopped by a player. Rule 1-2 states that a player must not take action with the intent of influencing the movement of a ball in play.
A serious breach of that rule means the rules committee can impose a penalty of DQ.
The USGA definition of serious breach: “If the Committee considers that the action taken in breach of this Rule has allowed him or another player to gain a significant advantage or has placed another player, other than his partner, at a significant disadvantage.”
The USGA stating Rule 14-5 was broken would seem to indicate the “serious breach” DQ standard in Rule 1-2 can’t and won’t be implemented here.
So Mickelson, it seems, won’t be DQ’d.
As The Action Network’s Jason Sobel astutely noted, it does appear a bit odd that Rule 1-2 isn’t the one in play here.
Yep he purposely hit a moving ball rather than stopping or deflecting it, meaning his actions don’t fall under Rule 1-2! The logic here is … interesting.
This has and will lead to plenty of chatter. Mickelson reiterated, though, he did not mean to cause a stir.
“I don’t mean any disrespect, and if that’s the way people took it, I apologize to them,” Mickelson said. “But that’s not the way it was taken. I took the two-shot penalty, moved on and there’s not much more to say.”