New local rule at Shinnecock may have made Phil Mickelson U.S. Open champion in 2004

New local rule at Shinnecock may have made Phil Mickelson U.S. Open champion in 2004

The USGA has a local rule for Shinnecock Hills in this U.S. Open that allows players to remove stones and pebbles from bunkers without penalty.

Phil Mickelson could have used that 14 years ago.

Tied for the lead with two holes to play, Mickelson made double bogey from the bunker on the 17th hole and finished two behind Retief Goosen. Mickelson never talked about the bunker shot after his round, but Fred Funk revealed what happened in a 2014 interview.

There was a small rock under his ball.

“We didn’t know the rock was there, but you could hear it,” said Funk, who played with Mickelson in the final round. “Phil showed me his pitching wedge. But he never said anything about it (to the media).”

Mickelson’s shot ran out about 5 or 6 feet above the hole. The bigger problem was running the putt by 4 feet and missing the comebacker.

Funk thought small rocks could be removed as long as the player could see it, though the USGA confirmed the local rule was not in effect in 2004.


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