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Phil Mickelson apologizes for breaking rules at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson prepares to take a tee shot

Phil Mickelson prepares to take a tee shot during Saturday's third round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Phil Mickelson apologized on Wednesday for having deliberately broken one of golf’s rules during the U.S. Open Saturday. He admitted embarrassment and said his emotions had touched off the incident that became a flashpoint of the tournament at Shinnecock Hills.

In a text to selected media members, he wrote: “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

After Mickelson hit a downhill putt past the cup on the 13th hole in Saturday’s third round, he raced after the ball and hit it while it still was moving, a violation of the rules. He was assessed a two-stroke penalty and said later that afternoon the action had been intentional and strategic, sparing him the effort of chasing the ball after it rolled off the green and down the hill. He was not disqualified by the United States Golf Association, although he could have been ousted for misconduct.

He instantly found himself in the center of debate that kept going for days. Commentators and some golf fans said Mickelson grossly violated the spirit of the game, which relies on the integrity of players to call infractions on themselves. Mickelson’s supporters said the incident was not that big a deal or that, at least, it did not outweigh the positives he always has brought to the sport.

The Mickelson situation escalated alongside a companion controversy about course conditions. Players were highly critical of how dry the greens had become and where the USGA had placed the holes on the 13th and 15th greens. Mike Davis, the CEO of the USGA, apologized during a news conference Saturday night and acknowledged again in a telephone interview Monday that the association had made “errors” in the course setup Saturday.

While Davis was dealing with that fallout Saturday night, he received a call from Mickelson, offering to withdraw. Davis, often the target of the golfer’s barbs, said that was not necessary.

Fellow tour pros generally declined to bash Mickelson, although Jason Day did tell Golf Channel Tuesday at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, “It’s obviously disappointing, what Phil did.” On Wednesday, Mickelson agreed.

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