Apr
4
2017
Phil Mickelson on Lexi’s controversial rules incident: “I think it should be reversed”
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up! That’s going too far, I think, as much as I feel for Lexi Thompson and believe she was robbed of a major. It could also set a dangerous precedent and open way too many doors that would not turn out to be beneficial to anyone. To clarify, Phil Mickelson’s quote in the headline is referring to reversing the result of the tournament and taking the ANA Inspiration trophy away from So Yeon Ryu and giving it to Lexi.

However, I agree with his general comments about the rule and the situation. I mean, holy crap, it’s Tuesday of Masters week and the Lexi rules controversy story is still making headlines! As I said yesterday, it’s great we’re talking about women’s golf (kind of), but it’s for the wrong reasons and it’s more of a general problem in golf and it’s not exactly a good look for the game.

When asked about Lexi’s controversial four-shot penalty this past Sunday, Mickelson prefaced his remarks by saying he didn’t want to discuss the specific incident, but then he obviously ended up doing so, anyway. His comments back up one of the main points I’ve been making in my previous posts about the rule and the importance and reason for it. (Thanks, Phil!)

“Rather than address that specific instance, what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” said Mickelson in his pre-tournament presser on Tuesday at Augusta National. “I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this is 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.

“But I think it should be handled within the Tour. I think that the Tour should go to those players and say, look, we’ve noticed you’ve been a little lax in how precise you’ve been in marking the ball. We’d like you to be a little bit better at it ‑‑ and see if that doesn’t just kind of fix the thing.”

And here’s when Phil veers off and discusses Lexi’s incident specifically.

“Because we’ve all marked the ball imprecisely, especially when you’re standing on the side of the ball like (Lexi) was and not directly behind the ball, in line with the hole, where it’s easy to draw a line,” said Mickelson.

“And I think that that should have been handled within the LPGA saying, hey, look, you’re a little lax in how you’re marking the ball. You need to be careful. Here’s a warning and let’s go from there.

“But to have a tournament be decided like that, with all the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a one‑foot putt with really no advantage, just a little bit of loose marking, if you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally, I just think that’s ‑‑ I think it should be reversed. I think that she should be given the trophy.”

OK, I’ve already said all I need to say about those last two sentences, but I’ll add one thing: This entire debacle also sucks for So Yeon Ryu. I mean, seriously, if anyone thought she “didn’t do the right thing” by forfeiting the playoff to Lexi, then, well, it’s crazy to suggest any competitor should do that, regardless of how absurd and unfair the circumstances were.

Try to put yourself in Ryu’s shoes, would *you* have forfeited the chance to win a major championship or any tournament? Um, no. It’s not like Ryu wanted to win the way she did, but it also wasn’t her fault, and I feel like suggesting that she should have and/or the result of the championship should be reversed is over the top and unreasonable. Actually, let me put it this way: Does anyone think Phil himself would have the same opinion if he were Ryu? Hell no. And again, that’s the only way to make this already absurd situation more ludicrous.

The whole thing sucks, and like I’ve emphasized, it shouldn’t have played out the way it did. I know it’s way easier said than done, but a simple fix is to disregard and/or take out the role of the armchair rules officials. As Mickelson alludes, the PGA Tour and LPGA can take that into their own hands without golf’s governing bodies giving them the go-ahead and officially writing it into the sacred Rules of Golf.

It’s very clear Lexi broke the rule in question, even though it wasn’t her intent. I also see the other side and to play devil’s advocate, there’s the scenario that she was trying to avoid a spike mark or something else, which is part of the reason why the rule is in place to begin with. I don’t think the rule as its written right now is without flaws, which is also why the USGA and R&A have amended it, but as of now, it’s not schedule to take effect until 2019.

Again, like Phil says, there are a number of players who are “loose” with the way they mark the ball. As I described yesterday or Sunday, I’ve seen guys place the mark under the ball and then replace the ball a few centimeters or inches or whatever in front of the mark or to the side or whichever way.

It’s definitely an issue that’s a big enough problem that players who are consistent offenders develop a reputation and it’s noticed enough for their peers to gossip and talk about it pretty openly. It’s one of those things in competitive golf that’s a big no-no, and it’s not a reputation any player wants to have because it essentially means that individual is a cheater. I’ll emphasize that I’m not referring to Lexi in this case, but to the problem in general.

When asked in a follow-up if Phil is implying that the Tours ignore the Rules of Golf, he kind of gives a non-answer, but interpret it for yourself because I think it’s clear he is indeed rather blatantly alluding to just that.

“Well, this is why I’m not trying to, I didn’t want to comment on it directly because I don’t want my words to be taken as though I’m commenting on the specific situation,” said Mickelson.

“So I don’t really have a great answer for you.  I don’t really want to expand on what I’ve already said.  I feel like we’ve all kind of been a little lax at times in the markings of our golf ball and I hate to see it cost somebody a major championship because of that.

“But yet I would like to see that type of nuance of the game improved on both tours, especially ours.  So I’m not really trying to comment on that specific situation, even though it’s what brought this to the forefront.”

My interpretation of that is Phil would like to see a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf — as in, a separate set of rules for amateurs and professionals. At this point, I guess it’s hard to disagree, or at least with regard to TV vigilantism.

Mickelson is playing in his 25th Masters (!!!) at the age of 46. Which, of course, is significant because Jack Nicklaus won his 18th and final major when he was 46 at Augusta National in 1986. If you were old enough to remember watching the Masters that year, it must have been pretty special.