Phil Mickelson was criticized a lot after his recent stroke to his moving ball in U.S. Open.
Surprisingly enough he was – only a few weeks later – penalized for a breach of the Rules of Golf again!
1. See video.
Start by seeing what happened in this video:
After consulting a rules official, Phil Mickelson assessed himself a 2-stroke penalty for improving his line of play (violation of Rule 13-2). pic.twitter.com/61GiY5ggaj
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 8, 2018
As you can see he tapped down some grass/fescue with his foot in front of the teeing ground, before he made the stroke.
He asked his caddie whether or not what he just did was legal. The caddie said that he thought it was legal, but Mickelson stated that he was in doubt and that he would consult a rules official.
3. The Rules of Golf.
What does the Rules of Golf say about this incident?
a. Rule 13-2 states that you are not allowed to improve certain areas, hereunder your line of play, e.g. by tapping down something growing/fixed.
b. This Rule also applies for a ball on the teeing ground (i.e. although the ball is not yet in play) when something outside the teeing ground is improved (Decision 13-2/14).
c. There is an exception/clarification, though, stating, that there is no penalty, if the act does not create a “potential advantage” (Decision 13-2/0.5). An example where a player is not penalized (although he improves his line of play) is if he: “…repairs a small pitch-mark… on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150-yard approach shot from through the green“.
Mickelson talked to a rules official and the conclusion was, that indeed he had incurred a penalty (two penalty strokes).
The rules official thus must have concluded, that there was a “potential advantage”.
Personally, I think it could have been argued, that there was no penalty, since…
1) … the fescue was not sticking much up in the air, and it therefore seems unlikely, that it could (physically) affect the flight of the ball at all (i.e. no potential advantage). It seems more like it was a visual distraction. And I don’t think that eliminating a visual distraction creates a “potential advance” – but I could very well be wrong (feel free to write your thoughts about it below).
2)… it seems to me that his stroke (the flight line of the ball) was quite a bit left of the fescue, and that he (also for this reason) did not get any potential advantage out of it.
But Mickelson said that he wanted to make a low flying stroke and that that was why he tapped down the fescue (so that it did not interfere with his stroke). Probably the rules official based his ruling on that statement.
4. A lot of nonsense.
Please note, that during the three minutes long video, there was a lot of nonsense from both the commentators, from Mickelson and from his caddie, including this:
- When the ball in on the teeing ground, there is no penalty.
- Wrong (see above).
- There is no penalty, when the ball is not in play.
- Wrong (see above).
- Mickelson would not have been penalized, if he – after having tapped the fescue down – had moved the ball to somewhere else on the teeing ground.
- Wrong (see Decision 13-2/14 and 13-2/24). The penalty has been incurred as soon as he tapped down the fescue. You cannot avoid the penalty by teeing up somewhere else afterwards.
- It was said that he did not detach anything.
- Not a great statement, since you can improve an area without detaching something. Rule 13-2 thus states, that you cannot improve the area by 1) “…moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed…”, or by 2) “…creating or eliminating irregularities of surface…“.
- Something is mentioned about Mickelsons intention (for tapping down the fescue).
- His intention does not have anything to say. The ruling depends on whether or not there was an improvement that created a potential advantage with respect to his line of play.
By the way it all happened in the recent tournament “A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier”, and he had a double bogey on the hole in question and his score for the round was 74 (+4)…. whereby he tied for 65th.
Hopefully Mickelson will not be involved in any Rules issues for some time now….