Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Prior to this week’s 118th U.S. Open Championship, oddsmakers enlisted the over/under for the highest score by any competitor on a single hole at 9.5 for the tournament.
Over tickets had already cashed by Friday afternoon, when Christopher Babcock posted a quintuple-bogey 10 on the fifth hole.
So no, Phil Mickelson didn’t have that in mind on the 13th hole of Saturday’s third round, when he raked a putt that was still moving, was assessed a two-stroke penalty for the violation and received a sextuple-bogey 10 on the hole — the second individual score higher than 9 in this tournament so far.
Faced with a downhill bogey putt while mired near the bottom of the leaderboard, Mickelson knocked it well past the cup. As the ball was still moving, he jogged toward it and hit it back toward the hole in the other direction.
Under Rule 14-5, which states, “A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving,” he received the two-stroke penalty, resulting in the double-digit number on his scorecard.
“I know it’s a two-shot penalty,” explained Mickelson, who wound up posting an 81 for the round. “At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.”
According to USGA officials, Mickelson was not subject to disqualification because he didn’t violate Rule 1-2, because they deemed he did not intentionally stop or deflect the ball before it came to rest.
As to whether his actions were disrespectful to the game and the tournament, Mickelson demurred.
“It’s certainly not meant that way,” he said. “It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best as you can. In that situation, I was just going back and forth. I would gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”
Despite 20 amateurs and several lower-level professional golfers competing on a brutally difficult golf course for the first two rounds, there was only one posted score higher than 9.
It took until Saturday afternoon, from a player who six times has finished runner-up in this event without a victory, for the next.
Yes, those tickets on the over had already cashed, but something tells us Mickelson’s imperfect 10 will still be remembered for a bit longer than the first one.