Phil’s Apology

 In Golf & Travel

With The Open championship only 2 days away I couldn’t help but look back on the most recent major and all it brought us. So, If you don’t already know what this post will be about based on the title, allow me to set the scene. It’s Saturday at the US Open and Shinnecock Hills is starting to look more and more like it did in 2004. It would be this round that would garner unpleasant comments from various players and golf experts expressing their feelings about the USGA and their inability to create a consist, level playing field. Zach Johnson stating that they (The USGA) had “lost the golf course” and Ken Schofield saying on Sunday evening after the tournament had finished that “Yesterday was a damaging day for the game”. However those comments would be nowhere near the epicenter of the media storm Saturday evening. Phil Mickelson was the talk of the tournament after he intentionally putted a moving ball that appeared to be rolling off the green on the 13th hole. Some laughed, some were appalled and others were just downright confused.

Phil had about 15-20 feet for bogey on the 13th hole and he smashed his putt. His aggressive attempt rolled by the hole and appeared to be heading off the green where it would most likely come to rest next to a bunker about 20 yards from the hole. Instead of allowing his ball to reach it’s USGA approved final destination, Phil quickly ran to his ball and putted it….while it was still rolling. He eventually finished the hole and officials ruled that he had scored a 10, the 8 strokes that he incurred on the ball plus a 2 stroke penalty for breaking rule 14-5. That’s what happens when you break the rules, you’re punished.

Phil knew it was a 2 stroke penalty and he chose to accept the penalty and break rule 14-5 “A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.” The fact that the USGA hasn’t changed the wording of the rule to encompass all genders might be an indication of the kind of decision making we are dealing with but I digress. People recieve stroke penalties all the time so why are these 2 strokes so different? There are 3 issues that people have with this.

It was intentional and intentionally breaking a rule is “a disgrace to the game”
He wasn’t disqualified
It was a blatant breach of etiquette

I’ll address all 3 of those.

1. Intentionally breaking a rule is not a disgrace to the game or the people who created the rules. The rules are created to protect the integrity of the game and to ensure a fair, even playing field for all. If a competitor chooses to act outside of the rules and knowingly does so while willing and prepared to accept the punishment that goes along with breaking the rules, that is fair play. After all, that’s what the rules are there for. To punish those who act outside of their guidelines. Intentionally breaking them and accepting the punishment is not a disgrace, it’s justice being served.

2. Some players and fans are upset that Phil was not DQ’d. If that is your issue then I would encourage you to not waste your time thinking too hard about it because the USGA acts in mysterious ways. Oftentimes they make questionable decisions and it seems this event is criticized almost on a yearly basis. They decided the 2 strokes was enough and that’s it.

3. Etiquette has to do with how you handle yourself on the golf course and I can see how intentionally breaking a rule would rub some people the wrong way. This part I can understand. That being said, we have all done it. Regardless of the stage, nobody is perfect and personally It doesn’t bother me a bit. We aren’t overly critical of pro’s throwing clubs, cursing themselves or having hissy fits on the course and we all know those are all poor displays of etiquette. He was punished for breaking the rule and that’s where it ends for me.

I understand that it is a bad look for the game and we definitely don’t want our young, impressionable players thinking that is acceptable. However I encourage you to remember WHY the rules are in place to begin with. They are there to protect the game from cheaters and to punish people for hitting bad shots. Phil acted on emotion and broke one of those rules and he was punished for it. He didn’t want to offend you and he meant no disrespect, he just wanted to get off the 13th hole and was willing to take a 2 stroke penalty in order to do so. He knew what he was doing and it wasn’t his best choice of all time but it happened. Think about it this way, the rules did their job perfectly. Someone did something that is not allowed and that person was punished. End of story, in my opinion.