Phil Mickelson found himself in a rules controversy on Saturday at the U.S. Open unlike any he’d ever experienced in his career, and according to his wife, he offered to withdraw from the tournament. But the USGA told him that wouldn’t be necessary, and Mickelson played his final round on Sunday just hours after one of the strangest moments in recent major championship history.
What did Mickelson do?
During Saturday’s Round 3, Mickelson, well off the pace in his hunt for the elusive career Grand Slam, slid a hard putt past the hole on No. 13, and then inexplicably chased it down while it was still rolling:
Mickelson was hit with an immediate two-stroke penalty. In interviews after the round, he not only appeared unrepentant, he confessed to gaming the rules in order to avoid hitting from an awkward location.
“The ball was going to go off in a bad spot,” he said. “I gladly take the penalty. … It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I wanted to do that, and I finally did it.”
What was the response?
That corner-cutting confession set off waves of criticism on Twitter, with many observers calling for Mickelson to withdraw. The USGA decided to stick with its two-stroke penalty and nothing more, leaving it to Mickelson himself to determine any further punishment. And according to Amy Mickelson, who spoke with reporters after Mickelson’s Sunday round, he did exactly that.
“I’m fully willing to withdraw,” Mickelson told the USGA, according to Amy. But USGA CEO Mike Davis told him that wouldn’t be necessary. (Mickelson could, of course, have withdrawn even if the USGA said he didn’t need to, but did not.)
“He’s a good man who had a bad moment,” Amy Mickelson said. “He’s not perfect — I’m not, you’re not. … You might have a bad day at work or do something or say something that you regret. When [players] do it, it’s on a very large stage and there’s so much immediate reaction on Twitter and social media, it can overwhelm.”
That’s a fair point; the social media mob isn’t exactly a calm, deliberative body. But Mickelson had several opportunities to take the action he deemed most appropriate on Saturday and Sunday, and he’ll roll onward in his career living with the choices he made.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.