Four days after his putt that rocked the golfing world, Phil Mickelson apologized Wednesday for his actions at the U.S. Open.
“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Mickelson said in a text message to Golf.com. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”
Last Saturday, during the third round at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., Mickelson sent a putt on the 13th green well past the hole. As the ball cleared the hole, Mickelson ran up to the ball, got in front of it, then hit the moving ball back toward the hole.
He was assessed a two-stroke penalty for the move, per PGA Tour rules, taking a 10 on the par-4 hole. But many people were so angered by the violation of the rules — and golf etiquette - that they called for his withdrawal from the tournament.
Mickelson stayed in the tournament, following up his third-round 81 with a closing 1-under par 69 on Sunday to finish the tournament tied for 48th at 16 over.
Following his third round Saturday, Mickelson offered a tepid apology in a statement that was far more defiant in tone.
“I don’t mean it disrespectful; if you’re taking it that way, that’s not on me,’’ Mickelson said immediately after the round. “I’m sorry that you’re taking it that way, it’s certainly not meant that way. Sometimes in these situations, it’s just easier to take the two shots and move on.’’
Amid the calls for his removal from the tournament, Mickelson on Saturday did meet with USGA officials to discuss whether he should withdraw.
“Phil really did want to understand how the rule operates because he didn’t want to ... as he said to me, ‘Mike, I don’t want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified,’” USGA chief executive Mike Davis said, according to ESPN. “That’s where we clarified that ‘Phil, you make a stroke at a moving ball, so we have to apply that rule.’
“That’s different than if he had deliberately just stopped the ball or whacked it in another direction or something like that. So it’s just us applying the rules.’’
One golfer who offered some level of support and understanding for Mickelson was Jordan Spieth, who spoke out about the issue Tuesday at the Travelers Championship.
“Phil knows the rules,” Spieth told the media in Cromwell, Conn. “If there was a chance it was going to go back behind the bunker and he’s got to chip back or he was going to play off the green anyways ... so he was potentially saving himself a shot. So if that was the intent, then what’s the harm in that? He’s playing for the best score he can.
“I don’t think people thought that was the intent, but I’ll take his word it was his intent. He knows the rules.”
—Field Level Media