By now, you’ve seen the video of Phil Mickelson’s moving ball violation on #13 of Saturday’s U.S. Open round.
Was this a violation of the spirit of the competition or simply a smart golfer taking advantage of the rules? You be the judge. Phil is a very bright articulate guy. After watching his explanation to Curtis Strange, his reasoning seemed half plausible.
We can recall numerous accounts of questionable behavior on tour from Rory McIlroy throwing a club into a lake after a bad shot, to Arnold Palmer, one of my boyhood idols, sending a putter into orbit after a three-putt (saw this in person at the Kemper Open), to Tiger Woods exhibiting less than stellar behavior with his temper tantrums and bad language, to just about everything John Daly has ever done including playing a moving ball in the 1999 U.S. Open.
These folks are human and are not perfect, and are under a constant microscope. But the behavior of professional golfers in general has been excellent. When I see one of these events, it’s tempting to view it through the eyes of “the children”. What would “the children”, with young impressionable and malleable minds be thinking of this? Doesn’t really matter because “the children’s” idols largely reside in team sports where players have far worse behavioral issues than professional golfers.
I view this behavior through the prism of the Jack Nicklaus Integrity Test. What would Jack do? I’m sure he’s had his incidents, but I’ve never seen or heard of an integrity problem with the greatest who’s ever played. How would he have behaved in such a situation? I believe Jack would have let the putt finish and played it as it lies. Sometimes Jack weighs in on these matters, as he did with Rory’s behavior. Would love to hear his take.
I’m a huge Phil fan, but he was wrong to do this. What really bugged me in his explanation that he’d been “thinking of doing this several times before.” Really? This time Phil outsmarted himself. What do you think?