Phil Mickelson Uses Wrong Ball, U.S. Penalized 2 Holes

Phil2The International team won two holes in one at the Presidents Cup on Friday thanks to two mistakes involving Phil Mickelson.

The first mistake belonged to Mickelson, who used a different type of golf ball than he had been using in his fourballs match with Zach Johnson against Jason Day and Adam Scott. The second mistake belonged to the rules committee, who told Mickelson he was disqualified from the hole.

The result? The International team went from all square to 2 up in one hole.

“It’s a strange situation,” said Mark Russell, the vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour.

The one-ball condition means that players cannot switch golf ball models during the round. The penalty is known as a one-hole adjustment. So when Mickelson realized he was playing with a different ball, the International team was to be awarded one hole at the conclusion of the one they played.

Match referee Gary Young consulted with the rules committee, and Russell said he told him that Mickelson was disqualified from the hole. Russell said he checked with other officials on the committee and they concurred.

Only later did the committee realize it had given Young the wrong information. Because the penalty already had been assessed – the one-hole adjustment – Mickelson should have been allowed to finish the hole. He was in the fairway, 292 yards away on the par 5.

Day wound up making birdie to win the hole, and the match was all square after six.

Russell said once a shot had been played, the committee could not go back and have Mickelson finish the hole because “allowing a correction could potentially undermine the strategy” already in play by both teams.

“It’s just unfortunate that he was told he had to pick up the ball,” U.S. captain Jay Haas said. “Had he been able to play out and make a 4 and tie the hole, then it would only have been 1 down instead of 2 down. But that didn’t happen, so nothing you can do about it.”

What’s yet to be determined is why Mickelson had two different models of golf balls in his bag.

“He was not angry,” Haas said. “Just, ‘Hey, rookie mistake, my fault, captain.’”

Van Cynical Mailbag: Is There Anyone More Overrated Than Presidents Cup Captain?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here comes this week’s Van Cynical Mailbag:

Van Cynical, What’s going to be the final score of the President’s Cup. U.S. 77 ½, Jason Day 2 1/2 seems like a legit score, right? — Brian Bailey via Twitter

Wow, who’s the cynical one here? Yeow. Give the International team some credit. I’ve never bought the excuses that they’re outmanned and don’t have enough depth. You’re talking teams that have featured Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Stuart Appleby, Craig Parry, Retief Goosen, Mike Weir, Louis Oosthuizen, K.J. Choi and plenty of other top-notch sticks. I’ve been puzzled why they have repeatedly underperformed. This is the International team’s Ryder Cup, their chance on the big stage, and they haven’t risen to the occasion. The Americans probably have an edge because they play a team match-play event every year. Using that logic, of course, the Americans should do better in the Ryder Cup. But Europe has been fielding a better team for the last decade. I do not expect a blowout win: U.S. 16, Internationals 14.

Is the Presidents Cup just a scrimmage before the Ryder Cup next year for the American squad? It feels like Baylor-Rice… — Zach via Twitter

Zach Attack, it wasn’t that long ago that Baylor wasn’t much better than Rice and that game was a virtual Doormat Bowl. Same for Oregon and Oregon State. Change is good in college football. I get what you’re saying and I don’t disagree except for the word scrimmage. In soccer terms, maybe it’s a “friendly.” While the Prez Cup has lacked significance—my suggestion to make it a qualifier for the Ryder Cup continues to gain no traction–it has always been a good show. Team match-play is the most compelling form of televised golf. Let’s hope this one is close.

Hey Sick Man, How can the Tour allow for a system that leaves off a guy (Brooks Koepka) with a higher world golf ranking than seven members on the team? — Brian Rosenwald via Twitter

That problem is easily solved, BriRo, by the captain adding him to the team as a wild-card selection instead of, say, a lower-ranked Phil Mickelson. We’ve got two issues in play here, Rosey. One is the flaws in the world rankings. I have flogged them repeatedly. The second is the flaw in the points selection system. There is no perfect method or ranking to pick a team. That’s why the captain gets two extra choices. If Koepka hadn’t missed the cut in the first two FedEx Cup events right before the selection deadline, perhaps he would have made the team.

Hey, Sicktastic, who will be the man of the matches in the Presidents Cup? — Michael Cummings via Twitter

I’ll assume you mean other than the obvious choices, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. I’ll just say this, MC Hammer: Beware India’s Anirban Lahiri. You haven’t heard of him but he can play.

Van Cynical, Is there a more overrated position in sports than Presidents/Ryder Cup captain? — Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

Yes. Major League Baseball Commissioner. Every time there’s been a big issue—strike, steroids, player’s rights—he’s always missing in action.

Hey Van Cynical, Is Pebble Beach pro-am now a boutique stop? It used to be the season opener in my eyes. — David Troyan via Twitter

You’ve gotta change with the times, Boy-Troy. The old Crosby used to feel like the start of the season because the frostbacks in the Midwest (like me) got the first taste of real golf and green grass and ocean spray. This wraparound season is a new animal. The new year may officially kick off with Monday qualifying next week for the Frys.com Open. I’m looking forward to asking players what they did during the offseason and getting answers like, “I barely had time to repack my luggage!” Also, the pros dislike the slow rounds with the am partners, often the course isn’t in prime condition yet and then there’s the weather.

Hey Vans, Are you vexed at the amount of publicity Jessica Marksbury is getting? You played in US Open qualifiers with pros. — BigMark via Twitter

I wished she’d gotten more. I could see a Golf Channel miniseries! I liked how Jessica, who failed to reach match play, wrote about her 12 in the second round and went through it shot by shot with all the thoughts in her head. Every golfer can relate to that nightmare moment. She makes a par on that par 5 instead of 12 and she shoots 79, a good score. I wrote about my U.S. Open qualifying adventures a few decades ago and my U.S. Senior Am rounds last year. Hey, it’s amateur golf, it’s fun and most people enjoy living vicariously if you bring them your story, like Jessica did. Like Tin Cup, she owned her 12 and gave us a peek inside the mind of a golf competitor. I enjoyed her heartfelt story.

Van Cynical, Rate the multiple-major seasons. — Floyd Harris via Twitter

Bobby Jones stands alone in a different class of four majors. Then you have Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods with three each. Hogan couldn’t make it back by ship after the British in time for the ’53 PGA and Tiger in 2000 went on to create the Tiger slam with a fourth in a row the following year. After that, four more stand out to me because they were legit almost-Grand Slams. Spieth this year, contending until the final hole, more or less, in all four majors; Jack Nicklaus in ’72 when he snagged the first two and then was stunned by Lee Trevino’s chip-in at Muirfield; Tiger in 2002 when he won the first two and, I believed, was going to win Muirfield, too, until that freak storm blew in just before he teed off in the third round; and Arnold Palmer in 1960 after he won the first two majors and was edge by Kel Nagle at The Old Course. The rest bunch up behind those.

Sicklemania, We’re living in sensitive times. Is trying to keep my left arm straight offensive to the LGBT community? — CapBozo via Twitter

No but my guess is that you might be.

courtesy of Gary Van Sickle (golf.com)

Can Phil Mickelson Reclaim His Game at the Presidents Cup?

The Presidents Cup - Singles MatchesWhen Jay Haas used his final captain’s pick to add Phil Mickelson to the U.S. Presidents Cup team, he cited Mickelson’s vast experience in team events and the outpouring of support from other pros on the squad. Phil’s reputation and popularity may have been enough to punch his ticket to Korea next month, but can he recapture his old form when it counts?

Between 2004 and 2008, Mickelson won three major championships and nine other PGA Tour events, finishing in the top six in scoring average every season. During this peak from age 33 to 38, Phil was clearly one of the three best golfers in the world, and while he fell to 10th between 2009 to 2013, he still won two majors and six other tournaments over those five seasons and remained an obvious contributor to team competitions. But since his 2013 Open Championship victory, Mickelson hasn’t won a single event in 45 attempts and rarely finds himself in the hunt.

A good way to measure overall performance is to look at how often a golfer beats the field average by 15 or more strokes over the course of an event. Past research indicates that players win an average of roughly a third of tournaments in which they play that well. Between 2009 and 2013, Mickelson reached this elite level fifteen times on both the PGA and European Tours (about 13 percent of his starts). In 2014 and 2015, he only played that well twice in 40 events (about 5 percent of his starts) and both of those performances came in majors — at the 2014 PGA Championship and 2015 Masters.

Of course, this level of decline is not uncommon among golfers in their 40s, as the average player tends to lose one full stroke between ages 35 and 45. Mickelson’s scoring average has gone from 69.3 between 2004 to 2008 to 70.4 in 2014 and 2015. Thus, his decline with age has been exactly what we would expect based on the career trajectories of other golfers.

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Also typical of most aging players, Mickelson’s decline has been concentrated in his long game (approach shots and drives). Based on Mark Broadie’s Strokes Gained stats from PGATour.com, Mickelson declined from +0.9 strokes gained per round on tee to green shots in 2009-11, to +0.7 strokes gained per round in 2012-13, to +0.4 strokes gained per round in 2014-15.

Mickelson’s touch with his irons and wedges has also failed him lately. The PGA Tour’s proximity to the hole stat measures how close, on average, each approach shot comes to the pin. Phil’s numbers have declined across every distance (wedges, short irons, and long irons) between 2009-13 and 2014-15. He struggles to control his approach shots more than he once did, resulting in fewer birdie opportunities and tougher two putts for par.

What’s worse, Mickelson’s ability to recover from drives into the rough, the talent that bolstered the legend of “Phil the Thrill,” has all but disappeared. In fact, in each of the last six seasons, his rank in proximity to the hole from the rough has been better than his rank in proximity to the hole from the fairway. But that magic seems to have escaped him this year, as he is now one of the PGA Tour’s worst players coming out of the rough. Simply fixing that part of his game might provide the spark he needs to be a positive contributor in Korea.

There are reasons for optimism. Evidence suggests that Mickelson can raise his game in the most important events. He has clearly reversed his poor career record in team events over the last three Presidents Cups and last three Ryder Cups — winning 16 points over 25 matches. He also remains one of the best at raising his play in major championships. Over the last eight seasons, only Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have a better scoring average in majors than Mickelson.

He’ll have to rediscover that big-game magic in Korea, or his most important contributions will come in the clubhouse.

courtesy of Jake Nichols (golf.com)

Mickelson, Haas Picked for Presidents Cup

U.S. skipper Jay Haas used his Presidents Cup captain’s picks on his son Bill and Phil Mickelson on Tuesday.  There’s already some controversy when it comes to the Presidents Cup, and it centers around Phil Mickelson.

On Tuesday U.S. captain Jay Haas used one of his two captain’s picks to select Mickelson, putting Lefty on the team for the 11th time. He used the other pick on his son, Bill Haas, who was the highest-ranked player not to automatically qualify.

Thing is, Mickelson has just four top 10s in the past two years and hasn’t won since July 2013. With the addition of Bill Haas, the U.S. has the top 11 players based on points followed by an outlier in Mickelson, who is 30th.

So was keeping Mickelson around, perhaps for his experience and leadership, the right choice? Or should other players–JB Holmes, Brooks Koepka, among others–have been picked? Cast your vote below!

Was Phil Mickelson deserving of Jay Haas’ Presidents Cup captain’s pick?

courtesy of Golf.com Staff