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Jun 16, 2018 10:39 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Fans React To Phil Mickelson's Controversial Move At Shinnecock On Saturday

Phil Mickelson was serenaded by fans with
Jun 17, 2018 7:55 AM

UPDATE: 10 p.m.

Another Saturday of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, another day of biting criticism for the USGA and claims that they had "lost the course," another round of apologies to players from those who chose pin positions, and another round that was bathed in drama and controversy.

But while most of the players were talking about pin positions that were unfair in light of the speed of the greens on another dry, breezy Saturday afternoon, the talk among those who were watching the tournament at the end of the day was all about fan-favorite Phil Mickelson's bizarre reaction to a missed putt on the 13th hole—and whether the golfer should have been disqualified from the tournament for having stopped his ball from rolling off the green on the 13th hole.

After being serenaded throughout the day with renditions of "Happy Birthday" Mickelson, who turned 48 on Saturday, lost his cool when his sixth stroke of the hole rolled passed the cup and seemed headed for a bunker behind the green. Mickelson ran in front of the ball and whacked it back toward the hole with his putter, even though it was still moving—a major no-no.

The USGA assessed a two-stroke penalty but many golf rules experts have said in the hours since that he should have been disqualified on the spot. Most people at the course on Saturday did not agree with that.

"My feeling is that he was frustrated and was sending a message about the course set up on certain holes to the USGA," said Bobby Joyce, the former PGA professional at Southampton Golf Club. Mr. Joyce said he did not think Mickelson should have been disqualified. "I think the hole selection committee should be DQ'd. Watching the best in the world three-putting and not being rewarded for good shots is not entertaining."

Walking off the course after a day of carrying scoreboards for another twosome, Henry Lilly and Connor Smith said they were astounded at Mickelson's actions.

"I feel his pain, because everyone was having difficult on the course today, but there definitely was a better way to handle it," Mr. Lilly, of Bronxville, said, but agreeing that Mickelson should not have been ejected from the tournament. "I was a standard bearer today for Ricky Fowler. He shot 14 over. So, yeah, Phil definitely could have handled it better."

"Golf-etiquette-wise, that was not the smartest thing to do," Mr. Smith added. "Phil knows the rules, but I think he was stretching the limits there."

Those who witnessed it, said that they couldn't believe their eyes.

"I would probably do it myself, but I'm not a professional, and not in the U.S. Open," said Christine Lloyd. "I just kept saying 'What is he doing? What is he doing?' But I"m not a rules person, so if the rules say two-strokes, then that's what he should have gotten."

Her husband, David, said that he'd seen other players slam their clubs in frustration, also a violation of etiquette, though not the rule book, but he didn't see Mickelson's reaction as very much different.

Another fan who was with them, was less sympathetic.

"I'm not as much of a Phil fan, so give him the DQ," he said.

UPDATE: 5:15 p.m.

It's been a tough day overall for the majority of the golfers as temperatures in the 80s have made it quite hot.

Dustin Johnson, who won the 2016 Open, led everyone at 4-under to start the day and he has fallen back into a three-way tie at the moment with Justin Rose at 2-over. Johnson has bogied five out of the nine holes he's played so far today.

Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, has seemed to come back a bit after an up-and-down start. He bogied the first hole but then birdied the second. At 4, it looked like he was going to put himself in a big jam after hitting his tee shot off the regulation greens and just off of the stands along the "Trophy Club." He had to take his second shot surrounded by fans, but he rebounded nicely, even after his second shot landed in the bunker. He got himself out of the bunker, on to the greens and salvaged the whole by going for par. He birdied 11 and now has the lead all to himself after Henrik Stenson bogied 10 to fall back to 1-over.

Koepka seems to be becoming a new fan favorite. After an 11-shot improvement from Thursday to Friday, Koepka put himself back into contention at 1-over to start Saturday's play. He continues to get words of encouragement from fans, including the Florida State Seminole chant—Koepka is a graduate of the school. He is also the great nephew of Dick Groat, who won two World Series as a shortstop with the Pittsburgh Pirates, earned the 1960 National League MVP award and earned a spot on eight National League All-Star teams. So Koepka, not surprisingly, is a big baseball fan and has been quoted as saying that if he could do it all over again he would have stuck with baseball. Golf seems to be working out just fine for him though.

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m.

The tournament didn't end so well for fan-favorite Phil Mickelson. "Lefty" finished his third round 11-over par 70 to finish the day 17-over and will once again miss out on winning a U.S. Open.

What everyone might remember most about Mickelson's time here in Southampton is his bizarre actions on hole No. 13. After burdying 4, Mickelson bogied 5, 8, 9, 10 and 11, which basically put him out of contention, but he seemed to let his nerves get the best of him on 13. After missing about a 15-foot putt, Mickelson ran over to his ball and hit it back to the hole, while it was still moving. He missed another putt, Andrew "Beef" Johnston finished his hole, then Mickelson missed another attempt at a putt before finishing 6-over the par-4 hole. Mickelson and Johnston shared a laugh after the ordeal, but Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

"Look, I don't mean disrespect to anybody," he told viewers during Fox's broadcast after he came in to the scoring clubhouse. "I know it's a two-shot penalty. 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."

Mickelson said he knew the ball was going to roll off the greens and behind a bunker, which is why he did it.

"I wasn't going to have a shot," he said. "I don't know if I was able to save a shot or not. I know it's a two-shot penalty hitting a moving ball. I tried to hit it as close as I could on the next one, and you take the two shots and move on."

Mickelson added again that he meant no disrespect to the tournament and hinted that it was more to save people from watching him struggle.

"I would gladly take the two shots over continuing that display," he said.

Whether some of the fans knew of the mishap or not, there were number of them looking for autographs once Mickelson did his interviews, both for Fox and the throng of reporters just outside the clubhouse. Regardless of his play, Mickelson said he enjoyed his time at Shinnecock.

"I've had an awesome day. It's been incredible," he said. "Singing happy birthdays, wishing happy birthday. The people have made coming here over the decades an awesome experience. It's a fun birthday."

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.

Whether he likes it or not, the spectators at Shinnecock Hills today will not let Phil Mickelson forget that it’s his birthday.

Mickelson, 48, has been serenaded by fans singing “Happy Birthday” to him since he teed off with Andrew “Beef” Johnston this morning. Mickelson shot even par on the first three holes and birdied the par-4 fourth hole, putting him at 5-over for the championship. Dustin Johnson, who tees off at 3:10 p.m. today, has a strong lead at four-under, the only player under par. Fellow Americans Scott Piercy and Charley Hoffman are at even par, while five other players are at one-over.

Mickelson has work to do if he wants to be in the conversation on Sunday, and the birthday singers aren’t the only ones rooting for him. He’s a fan favorite, particularly on Long Island, and fans would love nothing more than to see him come from behind to win the only major that has eluded him. He was the runner-up here in 2004, one of six times he’s finished second in the U.S. Open. When you ask people who they’re rooting for, Phil’s name always comes up. From longtime Shinnecock greenskeeper Ron Eleazer, to Southampton Golf Club member Denise Martorana, part of the team marshaling the first hole, to Shinnecock course superintendent Jon Jennings, everyone seems to agree that a Mickelson win would be something to celebrate.


Today is expected to be the busiest day at Shinnecock Hills, with bright sunshine bathing the course in warmth and the hunt for the championship on “moving day” starting to shape up.

The first two days of the tournament have seen near capacity crowds flood onto the course, about 26,000 on Thursday and more than 29,000 on Friday including spectators, vendor staff and volunteers.

Saturday, the total draw to the property should be well above that.

“Saturday is traditionally our peak day,” says Janeen Driscoll, the USGA’s communications director. “What we’ve been seeing so far is that a lot of people have taken advantage of the LIRR train service to get to the course—18,000 on Thursday.”

Ms. Driscoll said the USGA was also surprised at how many people bought their tickets to the first two days of the event at the front gates to Shinnecock Hills, and not in advance.

“Usually we sell everything well in advance, but New York is a very savvy ticket market and we’ve seen a lot of sales on-site.”

The USGA has capped ticket sales at 30,000 per day, but the event is also drawing thousands of support staff each day: from many of the 4,500 volunteers, to thousands of staff working for vendors in hospitality tents and concessions booths to hundreds of security guards.

Traffic getting to the course that had been at a snails pace early in the week was vastly improved on Friday and Saturday mornings, with shuttle buses making the trip from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton to the course in under 30 minutes.

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By BrianWilliams (87), on Jun 17, 18 8:59 AM
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By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 17, 18 10:37 AM
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By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 17, 18 11:06 AM
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