Phil Mickelson has his name back in the media once again for another rules snafu.
This time the incident wasn’t on as big of a stage as the ball deflection during the U.S. Open, and took place during the final round of the Greenbrier Classic when Mickelson was on the par-4 seventh tee box. The markers were up close to the front of the box which brought the tall rough sort of into the picture if a player chose to hit a low shot. Mickelson teed up his ball and proceeded to walk to the front of the tee box and stomp down the grass that was sticking up in his way, which is, as every professional golfer knows or should know, a no no.
Mickelson thought he was alright, but wasn’t sure and did it anyways. After the shot he waved for rules official Robby Ware to come over to discuss the incident. Ware offered to double check, and after confirming that he had in fact broken the rules (rule 13-2), he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving his line of play.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of Phil’s reasoning in this situation, but here’s what he told media members after his round.
Q. Take us through what happened there on 7 today?
PHIL MICKELSON: “Oh, I just — I wasn’t really thinking. I just had a few bonehead moves today. But you can move stuff on the tee box, but I’ve been working on this really low shot for the next two weeks, and there was some fescue in front that was low, and I stepped on it. Right when I did, I thought, oh, my goodness, that might be a penalty. I told my partner, and we asked Robbie the rules official, and sure enough it was.
“It was just one of those things that I wasn’t really paying attention or thinking. If we were on the tee box, no problem. But it was just a foot in front, and it’s just one of those things. So you take your penalty and you move on. It’s happened before, not just at The Open, but a number of times. A lot of times guys just inadvertently do things, and I just wasn’t thinking.”
Q. Essentially you realized right away on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: “I paused before I hit, and I said that may be a penalty, we’ll have to check. Sure enough it was. But if it were on the tee box, it would have been no problem, but it was right in front of it.”
If he thought there may be an issue with the grass, why would he not tee the ball up a little to the side or further back? Even if he were to tee it up and address the ball, he still had the opportunity to re-tee and move on the tee box as long as he hadn’t made contact.
Mickelson claims to know the rules of the game very well, but he hasn’t demonstrated this knowledge very well twice, that we know of, this season. I’m not suggesting that Phil is looking for ways to cheat the game, but at some point, one could believe that had this not taken place during a live broadcast – it was seen on PGA Tour Live online and not the televised broadcast – that it may have been completely overlooked.
Phil is a legend, and deserves the benefit of the doubt so I will afford him that, but he most definitely is going to be watched a lot more closely moving forward.