Pete Cowen defends Phil Mickelson's U.S.Open antics


When Phil Mickelson got home Saturday evening - his head still spinning from one of the more freaky episodes of his highly entertaining and unpredictable career - one of the first things he did was call USGA executive director Mike Davis. Mickelson's fifth stroke was a putt that went by the hole and began going down a slope.

He finished the day, his 48th birthday, with an 81, 11-over par. Mickelson and Johnston shared a laugh after the ordeal, but Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty. "I don't mean disrespect by anybody", added the five-time major victor, on his 48th birthday. He acknowledged the ball would have rolled off the green and rather than try his luck from there, he took the 2-stroke penalty and moved on. It's a risk. I could have maybe hit a shot and somehow made the putt.

"It's my understanding of the rules". It's just simply I just wanted to get on to the next hole and I didn't see that happening at the time. "I think he just snapped at how bad his speed was on that putt".

Mickelson's tee shot hit the fairway, but he missed the green with his next two approach shots. "If that is not a serious breach of the etiquette of the game, I don't know what is". Yes, I get that some people seem to take perverse enjoyment out of seeing the game's top players finding things way more hard than they are used to on a week-to-week basis, but no way is it good for the game as a spectacle to a worldwide audience for good shots to be severely punished, as was the case here. I didn't feel like continuing my display and I would gladly take the two-shot penalty and move on.

The incident will always dog the colourful and often controversial Californian - he later told critics to "toughen up" - but Mickelson's mad-cap moment was just the start on a insane day at Shinnecock Hills. "Whether I do or not I'm happy with the day".

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Despite Mickelson's explanation, Johnston's first impression was that frustration got the better of him.

Other players, however, were more measured and accepted the challenge for what it was.

Mickelson declined to talk to the press Sunday after posting a final-round 69, a 12-stroke improvement from his third-round tally, meaning reporters were left to guess whether he was feeling any regret or remorse after his rules flap. Instead, he described it as "certainly a lot harder today", and added that he'll continue to relish the challenge of playing the U.S. Open even if "sometimes it gets a bit goofy". "You can always use them in your favor".

Amy Mickelson's endorsement of her husband's character came in the context of that putt, a violation of golf rules that resulted in a two-stroke violation. The greens at Shinnecock Hills were rolling like they were made of glass.