GULLANE, Scotland – Phil Mickelson’s apology tour opened Thursday on this side of the Atlantic to what could be considered positive reviews by the British media.
Last month, Mickelson made one of the worst decisions in golf. He purposely hit his moving ball to keep it from rolling off the 13th green in the third round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills (“Mickelson, USGA disgrace U.S. Open,” June 17).
The act was bad enough, leading to a two-stroke penalty under Rule 14-5 and a 10 on the par-4 hole as he shot 81, eventually tying for 48th. The subsequent explanation was perhaps even worse, leaving many to attack Mickelson for both actions.
For two days, the British media clamored to discuss the incident with Mickelson, but he made himself unavailable with scouting trips to Carnoustie for next week’s British Open and to Le Golf National in France for this fall’s Ryder Cup. After he shot even-par 70 in the first round of the Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club, to trail by seven strokes (scores), Mickelson addressed the questions.
“It’s not been my best month,” Mickelson conceded. “I’ve made a big mistake, and I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. It wasn’t a great moment.”
© GOLFFILE/FRAN CAFFREY
Phil Mickelson, who opened the Scottish Open with an even-par 70, called his antics at the recent U.S. Open ‘a big mistake, and I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.'
For Mickelson, the backlash that he created seemed to surprise him. In the ensuing four weeks, he has embarked on a P.R. campaign.
On Thursday, Mickelson acknowledged that he does some ill-advised things and has moments when his head is in the clouds. On the course, those lapses in judgment have included tamping down the grass in front of a tee box at Greenbrier last week, which cost him a two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-2.
“Not only was I not great on the course, I was not great after the round either,” Mickelson said when asked about his explanation after the third round of the U.S. Open, when he showed no remorse for his actions. “It was not a great day, and it was my [48th] birthday, so I tend to do dumb stuff on my birthday.”
Mickelson said it took him days to work through the anger of Shinnecock and that his way of showing anger is by not throwing clubs or berating fans or marshals, but is more passive-aggressive. That’s what he said happened when he acted out on the 13th green Saturday in the U.S. Open.
Mickelson was asked whether he was angry with the USGA for its setup of Shinnecock Hills, but he didn’t answer directly.
“There was just a bunch of stuff,” Mickelson said. “I had to let that go. It took me a few days to let it go.”
Since winning the WGC-Mexico Championship on March 4 for his 43rd career PGA Tour victory, Mickelson has posted only one top-10 finish, a tie for fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship on May 6. Although Mickelson missed only one cut in nine starts since winning in Mexico City, his game has not been particularly sharp. After the antics at Shinnecock Hills, he hopes to use the Scottish Open to propel him toward a strong finish for the year.
“My ball-striking actually feel pretty good,” Mickelson said. “My game doesn’t seem far off, but I haven’t been really sharp.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli