Phil Mickelson loses the plot as Justin Rose stays in contention

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Dustin Johnson and three other US players share the lead at three-over after the US Open third round, with Justin Rose in assertion one shot back

The US Open could trademark its repeat and spectacular brand of chaos. Nobody does it better. On a day in which Dustin Johnson sampled this major’s evil side, Phil Mickelson triggered shockwaves throughout the regions of the golfing world.

Mickelson’s turbulent relationship with his professional nemesis took its latest and most extraordinary twist as he intentionally rehit his own putt when rolling rapidly past the hole on the 13 th green at Shinnecock Hills. This was quite the 48 th birthday.

The offence, which led to calls for disqualification, was widely interpreted as a Mickelson protest at the United States Golf Association’s setup of the course. The man himself denied such a theory, even if Zach Johnson stepped forward to lacerate tournament organisers. As the leaders grasped urgently for air, it appeared Johnson had a point. “They’ve lost the course,” said the two-times major champion. In what represented an ominous throwback to the 2004 US Open here, perfectly good approach shots failed to stick on greens and putts reacted as if on glass.

The Mickelson drama and Johnson broadside came on a day where Dustin Johnson’s earlier tight grip on the tournament he had headed by four was significantly loosened courtesy of a front nine of 41. The world No 1 had steadied himself before three-putting the 18 th; his 77 entails a 54 -hole, four-way tie for the leading at three over par alongside his American compatriots Brooks Koepka, Tiny Finau and Daniel Berger. Justin Rose was three over for the working day but the 2013 champion gained four shootings on the leading, to be one behind the quartet.

The brutality was illustrated by only three members of the field breaking par. Finau and Berger induced morning 66 s; they rose through the field at great pace from the convenience of their hotel rooms. Rose’s 73 left him a shot ahead of Henrik Stenson. Wide open? You bet.

Mickelson, who requires victory at his national open to complete a career grand slam, had virtually no chance of such glory when taking to the hole he was to render infamous. He was four over par for the day and plus 10 for the tournament.

Nobody could reasonably have predicted what happened next. Mickelson rattled his fourth shot, a curling 18 ft putt, well past the beaker. Before the ball could come to a standstill- it was still gathering pace on a slope- Mickelson chased after it and struck it back towards the cup. Had Mickelson not intervened, the ball would have rolled back up the green.

His score was deduced as a 10, including two-stroke penalty. Tournament officials instead insisted that rule 14 -5, which relates to playing a moving ball as opposed to stopping or deflecting it, encompassed the questions entirely. Others called fouled.” I would have lobbied for a disqualification ,” said David Fay, a former executive director of the USGA.

Phil Mickelson was comfy with his actions on a bruise day. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/ AP

Mickelson was blissfully at ease with his own actions. The harsh truth is he had brought the second major of 2018 into disrepute. After signing for the purposes of an 81, Mickelson openly admitted he broke the rule wilfully.” I don’t mean to disrespect anybody, I know it is a two-shot penalty. At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth, hitting the same shot over. I took the two shootings and moved on.

” It’s my understanding of the standard rules. I’ve had multiple times where I have wanted to do that, I just finally did it.

” I would gladly take the two shoots over continuing that display. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone and if that’s the way it was taken, I apologise to them. Sometimes in these situations it is just easier to take the two shootings and move on .”

Mickelson disdain for the style the USGA configure courses has been easy to infer for a number of years. On this occasion, Mickelson opted not to publicly lambast the pin placement on the 13 th.

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” Everybody has got to play it so I am not saying that either way ,” he added.” I was playing it worse than most and wanted to get to the next hole eventually, which I did .”

Andrew ” Beef ” Johnston, who was playing in Mickelson’s company, didn’t quite know what to build of everything is.” I looked at him and was like:’ Is this actually happening ?'” said the Englishman.” I said to him:’ Sorry but I can’t help but laugh at that, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen .’ I’ve never seen anything like it .”

Zach Johnson, who posted 72 in the group immediately behind Mickelson, delivered his volley long before the principal protagonists were reduced to quivering wrecks.” When you have a championship that comes down to sheer luck, that’s not right ,” he said.” Shinnecock Hills is beautiful but unfortunately they’ve lost the golf course .”

Stenson swore on a live television interview when venting his annoyance. Few could blame him. The US Open should carry a health warning.

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