Saturday we saw something we haven’t seen in professional golf in a long time, if not ever. Phil Mickelson made a move in an effort to save himself from something worse… or so he said.
Watching it live in the moment was a bit surreal. Phil made a putt that was a miss and long and had a trajectory to continue down the hill and off the green what could have been a good 30-40 yards. Once he realized it was heading to Timbuktu he dashed after the ball and hit it mid roll back up the hill. Was he hitting the ball mid roll because he thought the pin placement and the USGA’s set up on the course was awful (once again) making a jab at them or was he trying to give himself the 2 stroke penalty and save himself from a probable 4 strokes from down below? He claims the latter. Do I believe him and do I think he is in the right? Yes and no.
Golf is one of those unicorn sports that has a foundation of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and sportsmanship. No other sport in existence has this ultimate combination. So, did Phil mess with those core values or did he make a strategic and thoughtful move? I so badly want to feel like he did but there is still this little (and I’m saying tiniest of tiny) inklings that some kids fresh to golf watched what I saw and thought, “hey that guy cheated.” He most certainly didn’t cheat though.
At the root of all of this is the fact that the USGA has lined up not one, not two, but three dare I say questionable US Open settings. No offense to the beautiful courses but the pin placement, course conditions and weather was not what I’d like to see as US Open quality. In my humble opinion it wasn’t US Open golf. It was links style European golf. Leave The Open to Europe. Give us American golf. Give us one of the awesome stadium style courses. Give us one of most prestigious of our great States. Lucky for us, on the near horizon is Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines!
Truthfully, in my mind Phil’s actions are not controversial but we are in the digital age where social media opinions are king. We see you Phil. We see you and we still love you… maybe even more, especially since Sunday on the same hole you made the most amazing celebration with your finishing putt!
So… what say you? Phil: Friend or Foe?