Mickelson’s actions should not be dismissed

Embarrassing, awkward, unfortunate are all words that could be used to describe Phil Mickelson’s actions at last week’s U.S. Open.

Every golf fan knows the story by now.

During Saturday’s third round, Mickelson putted his ball on the 13th hole, and after sliding past the cup, the ball was on its way off the green when Mickelson suddenly began to run after it.

Shockingly, while the ball was still moving, he hit it back toward the hole.

The entire golfing world watched this bizarre event in amazement, surmising that Mickelson had temporarily lost his mind in a fit of frustration.

After the round, however, Mickelson assured everyone that his actions were thoughtfully planned out, and that he had contemplated this very action for a long time.

Obviously, golf purists and casual fans alike were both dumbfounded and appalled. Mickelson’s actions were soundly criticized by media members and tour pros alike.

I have to admit: I thought it was one of the craziest and most unsportsmanlike actions I’ve ever seen on a golf course.

This particular event is not the first occurrence of curious behavior by Mickelson, either on the course or off.

His tremendous skill as a golfer can hardly be overstated, but it might be dwarfed by his ability to craft an on-course persona that is extremely personable to fans. Mickelson’s aw-shucks smile and non-stop thumbs-up gestures have helped him create such a fierce fan base that many golf fans refuse to consider any of his off-center behavior over the years.

With all this said, I’m sure Mickelson will be even more careful to present an extra-friendly public image over the next several months in order to help fans forget this most recent incident.

On Wednesday, Mickelson issued a follow-up, written apology for his actions. The apology, however, curiously contradicted many of the statements Mickelson made during his post-round just a few days before.

I’m confident, however, that Mickelson’s many fans will dismiss the obvious facts and rally to his defense while awaiting his smiling return to the golf course and his happy thumbs-up.

Shinnecock Hills

The USGA received considerable criticism for the setup of course conditions during last week’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

Most of the criticism was deserved, but I think much of it missed the mark.

It seemed that many were criticizing the course as being too difficult, when in fact the issue involved setting up a course with the potential to change drastically over the course of a single round.

With questionable pin placements and firm, fast greens, Saturday’s third round started out reasonably for the early golfers.

However, it seemed inevitable that the windy, dry conditions would cause the course to become wildly more difficult by later in the afternoon. Ultimately, the setup was extremely unfair for the leading golfers who teed up late on Saturday.

The responsibility for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the USGA.

Personally, I am baffled with the obsession for extremely firm and fast greens. The U.S. Open should be a difficult test for the world’s best players, but this year’s tournament again ignored placing a premium on driving the golf ball.

The fairways at Shinnecock Hills were almost twice as wide as typical U.S. Open fairways.

By utilizing narrower fairways and slower green speeds, the USGA would still have had a very difficult course and one with much less controversy.

PA Amateur qualifiers

Congratulations to Iron Masters’ Isaac Wood and Scotch Valley’s Anthony DeGol, who recently qualified for the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship.

Wood shot a 1-over par 72 and DeGol posted a 73 to finish tied for sixth and 11th place, respectively, at Indiana Country Club. Ebensburg’s Max Kirsch was also among the qualifiers with a score of 73.

The 105th Amateur Championship will be held at Sunnehanna Country Club, July 30-Aug. 1.

Ken Love covers local golf for the Mirror. He can be reached at gltr777@atlanticbb.net.