AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson explained why there are rules like the one Lexi Thompson violated Sunday: Golfers cheat.
He did not use that word and definitely did not point a finger at Thompson, who lost the LPGA’s first major championship of the season because she was penalized four strokes as the result of improperly marking her ball on a green. But he did not sugarcoat what he sees as a problem, either.
“I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” the three-time Masters champion said during his pretournament news conference. “I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark. And this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth. I think that kind of stuff has to stop.
“But I think it should be handled within the tour. I think that the tour should go to those players and say, ‘Look, we’ve noticed you’ve been a little lax in how precise you’ve been in marking the ball. We’d like to see you be a little better at it.’ ”
As for Thompson’s situation, during the final round of the ANA Inspiration when she was penalized for a violation a day earlier, he said the LPGA should have let her go with a warning. She lost the lead that she held and lost the tournament in a playoff. “I think that she should be given the trophy,” Mickelson said.
Jack Nicklaus said that he knows Thompson and is confident she was not trying to gain an advantage. But he added that during his career, three times he caught a playing companion cheating.
“Three occasions, we took it quietly to the tournament director and got out of it. Nothing was ever said publicly about it,” he said. “If it’s blatant, then I think it’s not fair to the rest of the field not to bring it up. But you bring it up quietly and try not to embarrass somebody. Do it in a class manner.”