The Shinnecock crowd was on Phil Mickelson’s side Sunday, just as it always is when its favorite son is playing on Long Island.
The cheers were long and loud as he made his way to a respectable 69 in the final round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, finishing well back but on a decidedly higher note than the way he left the course Saturday.
The controversy he created by deliberately putting a moving ball on the 13th hole Saturday, preventing it from rolling off the green and also calculating that it would cost him a two-stroke penalty, seemed pretty inconsequential to the masses who followed him for his early round.
On that same 13th hole Sunday, he made a 6-foot putt for par, then pumped his arms in the air, took the ball out of the hole and tossed it to the crowd, thrusting his putter skyward.
“It was like he won the Masters,” playing partner Rickie Fowler said.
His actions Saturday raised questions of disqualification through parts of the golf world. He went as far as to call USGA CEO Mike Davis to inquire whether he should have been disqualified.
“Phil really did want to understand how the rule operates,” Davis said late Saturday. “Frankly, as he said to me, ‘Mike, I don’t want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified.’ ”
Davis said he assured Mickelson that the rules were applied correctly, and Mickelson had a delightful stroll with Fowler on Sunday.
“I think the real question is what am I going to do next?” Mickelson said Sunday as he scurried to the players’ hospitality area after a full half-hour of signing autographs and posing for selfies, some of which he took himself. “I don’t know.”
Autograph-seekers four-deep pleaded for his signature. At no point was it evident that the Saturday situation had any bearing on his popularity.
“It’s for my dad,” they called on Father’s Day.
“It’s for my mom.”
“It’s for my son.”
“It’s for me, just for me.”
And several in the crowd called out, “You’re a class act, Phil, I don’t care what they say.”
Mickelson’s remarks Saturday added some fuel to the fire, one that was quickly extinguished in the hearts of his fan base.
“I don’t mean it disrespectful. If you are taking it that way, I’m sorry,” Mickelson said rather defiantly Saturday after taking a 10 on the 13th hole and signing for an 81. “If somebody’s offended by that, I apologize to them, but toughen up. It’s not meant that way. I simply wanted to get on to the next hole.
“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.”
His wife, Amy, and their three children met him at the end Sunday, with plenty of hugs and kisses and a planned trip to New York City for the week.
“You know, everybody is going to have a bad day,” Amy said of her husband’s unfortunate Saturday. “I think he could have handled it a little better. But it’s time to move past. It’s a new day. Today was a pretty good one.”
Shaking Mickelson’s hand and giving him a big hug outside the scoring room after the round was Jimmy Dunne — Shinnecock member, accomplished player and friend to many players at the top of the game.
What did the “Dunne Man” think of the Mickelson situation?
“It’s over,” he said.