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  • Alistair Tait

How Would Arnie Have Acted, Phil?

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Bet the USGA now wish they’d disqualified Phil Mickelson after he hit a moving ball on Shinnecock's 13th green during the third round of the 2018 U.S. Open, especially after the way he criticised the governing bodies for the new rule giving tournament committees the right to limit shaft lengths to 46 inches.

As you can see below, the five-time major winner isn’t too happy about the new decree.

The game’s governing bodies just can’t win. They get criticised if they take too long to respond to an issue – grooves, anchoring, etc – and hammered if they pass a law that just doesn’t sit right with a marquee player.

Thankfully, other name players are supportive of the new Local Rule. Rory McIlroy, chairman of the PGA Tour's player advisory council, said:

"I was in all those meetings when we discussed it for quite a while, and I think the majority of players are on board with it."

Lee Westwood certainly is. He replied to Mickelson on Twitter with:

“What difference does a couple of inches make!?”

Thomas Bjorn tweeted:

“Be interesting to see how many of the long hitters in the game have over 46 inch shafts… I would say, hardly any.”

The 2018 European Ryder Cup captain then added:

“Weird rule that will accomplish nothing!”

I don’t know about you, but it seems Bjorn’s last line is far more diplomatic than Mickelson’s “stupid” take, but then we’re not surprised.

For someone with such popularity, the left hander really lets himself down at times. This is one of those times. So was publicly dissing Tom Watson after the Americans lost the 2014 Ryder Cup match at Gleneagles. No problem with Mickelson feeling aggrieved at Watson’s captaincy, but if ever there was a time when a problem should have been sorted out behind closed doors in the confines of the team room, then that was it. To trash Watson in front of the world’s press in a country where Watson is revered was unforgivable.

Ditto for stopping a moving ball at Shinnecock. He should have been disqualified for that action rather than just docked two shots.

To be fair to Mickelson, he did apologise for his Shinnecock shenanigan. Wonder if he’ll apologise for calling the USGA and R&A stupid?

Maybe the most perplexing aspect to Phil Mickelson is that he’s modelled his career on the late, great Arnold Palmer. Mickelson said as a young professional he saw the way Palmer acted within the game and decided that would be his approach too. It’s why he goes out of his way to sign so many autographs, a policy he’s to be lauded for.

You can bet Palmer would never have stooped to calling the game’s rulers stupid. Too bad Phil didn’t think about that before hitting the Tweet button.

#JustSaying: “Golf requires only a few simple rules and regulations to guide the players in the true nature of its sporting appeal. The spirit of the game is its own referee.” Robert Harris, Sixty Years of Golf

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