Phil Mickelson loses the plot as Justin Rose stays in arguing

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

The US Open could trademark its recur 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 in all regions of the golfing world.

Mickelson’s turbulent relationship with his professional nemesis took its latest and most extraordinary twisting as he purposely 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 such courses. The human himself denied such a theory, even if Zach Johnson stepped forward to lacerated tournament organisers. As the leaders grasped desperately for air, it seemed 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 affiliation for the lead at three over par alongside his American countrymen Brooks Koepka, Tiny Finau and Daniel Berger. Justin Rose was three over for the day but the 2013 champ gained four shots on the result, to be one behind the quartet.

The brutality was illustrated by only 3 members of the field transgressing par. Finau and Berger made morning 66 s; they rose through the field at great pace from the consolation 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 working 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 assembling 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 was of the view that rule 14 -5, which relates to playing a moving ball as opposed to stopping or deflecting it, encompassed the issue entirely. Others called fouled.” I would have lobbied for a disqualification ,” said David Fay, a former executive director of the USGA.

Phil
Phil Mickelson was comfortable with his actions on a bruising day. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/ AP

Mickelson was blissfully at ease with his own actions. The harsh truth is he had brought the second largest major of 2018 into disrepute. After signing for 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 merely didn’t feel like going back and forth, reaching the same shot over. I took the two shots and moved on.

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

” I would gladly take the two shots 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 shots and move on .”

Mickelson disdain for the way 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 said here today either way ,” he added.” I was playing it worse than most and wanted to get to the next pit eventually, which I did .”

Andrew ” Beef ” Johnston, who was playing in Mickelson’s company, didn’t quite know what to attain of it all.” I looked at him and was like:’ Is this actually happening ?'” said here 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 of the working group instantly 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 ventilating his annoyance. Few could blame him. The US Open should carry a health warning.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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