Phil Mickelson rips USGA’s U.S. Open setups: If it doesn’t rain, it will be messed up

May 31, 2019

The USGA has long been a target for pro golfers, and Phil Mickelson took aim on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after the first round of the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, Mickelson said the USGA is bound to flub the U.S. Open setup at Pebble Beach in two weeks. Only rain, Mickelson said, would neutralize the setup.

“I’ve played, what, 29 U.S. Opens,” he said. “One-hundred percent of time they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain. The rain is the governor. That’s the only governor they have. And if they don’t have a governor they don’t know how to control themselves.

“It’s just based on history,” he continued. “My 30 years, and 30 years before that. So I think we’re all pulling for a little rain.”

Mickelson, of course, was at the center of last year’s U.S. Open controversy. During the third round a baked-out Shinnecock Hills was giving players fits, and Mickelson threw the tournament on its head when he trotted after a missed bogey putt and, while the ball was still in motion, clubbed it back toward the hole. Mickelson said it was a strategic move.

“I knew the ball was going to go off in a bad spot, I didn’t feel like continuing my display,” he said at the time. “I will gladly take the two-shot penalty and move on.”

Mickelson could have been disqualified, but he was instead assessed a two-stroke penalty and made a 10. The following week he released a statement, saying, “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

Regardless of Mickelson’s opinion of the USGA, that governing body hosts the only major he has yet to win, and he’s well aware his chances of capturing the career grand slam are running out. He’s had success at Pebble, though. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am there earlier this year.

“The difficulty is that when you’re in your 20s you feel like you have multiple chances,” he said Thursday. “And when you’re turning 49, you’re like I’ve got two more chances, this year, and maybe Winged Foot, and that’s about it. With that being the only one in the four that I haven’t won, and what it would offer me and how I look at my career, I put more pressure on it. That’s the difficult thing.”

Asked if it was the only thing that could alter Mickelson’s legacy, he said no.

“It’s just that it would be pretty special to be part of the elite players that have won all four,” he said. “To me that’s the sign of a complete game.”

Mickelson shot a two-under 70 on Thursday and is tied for 23rd, five off the lead. He has an 8:26 a.m. tee time on Friday.