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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

US Open: Phil Mickelson 'meant no disrespect' after hitting moving ball with putter

American's bogey putt at Shinnecock Hills' par-four 13th skated past cup and was heading down slope when he trotted after it and batted it back toward hole with putter

Multiple major champion Phil Mickelson has yet to win the US Open title. Mike Segar / Reuters
Multiple major champion Phil Mickelson has yet to win the US Open title. Mike Segar / Reuters

Phil Mickelson insisted he meant no disrespect when he opted to putt a moving ball in the third round of the US Open - swallowing a sextuple bogey at the 13th hole.

Mickelson's bogey putt at Shinnecock Hills' par-four 13th skated past the cup and was heading down a slope when he trotted after it and batted it back toward the hole with his putter.

He needed eight strokes to get the ball in the hole and with a two-stroke penalty walked off with a sextuple bogey 10 on the way to his highest ever round in 27 US Open appearances of 11-over 81.

Playing partner Andrew Johnston called it "a moment of madness".

But Mickelson said the incident was n't a childish display of frustration from a five-time major champion celebrating his 48th birthday.

Instead, he said, he decided the two-stroke penalty he knew he would receive would be preferable to letting the ball escape off the green.

"Look, I don't mean disrespect to anybody," he said. "I know it's a two-shot penalty. At that time, I just didn't feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over.

"It's meant to take advantage of the rules as best as you can. In that situation, I was just going back and forth. I would gladly take the two shots over continuing that display."

US Open saga

It is another chapter in the saga of Mickelson at the US Open - the only major tournament missing from Mickelson's resume and one in which he's finished runner-up six times.

John Bodenhamer of the US Golf Association said Mickelson was penalised two strokes for violating rule 14-5 by "making a stroke at a moving ball".

Bodenhamer said USGA rules officials "quickly" decided that Mickelson's action was covered by that rule, and said the committee did not consider Mickelson's actions to be covered by the rule stating "a player must not take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play" - which can result in disqualification.

As that decision sparked comment on social media, Bodenhamer said after the round that Mickelson had reached out to USGA chief executive Mike Davis "to just have a better understanding of what our decision was".

Davis said Mickelson said to him "Mike, I don't want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified.

"That's where we clarified," Davis said, telling Mickelson he "made a stroke at a moving ball, and so we have to apply that rule."

Mickelson's day had been a slog until the 13th, with five bogeys following his lone birdie at the fourth hole. He added one more bogey at the 17th and had a 17-over par total of 227.

Despite Mickelson's explanation, Johnston's first impression was that frustration got the better of him.

"I think it's just one of the moments where you're not thinking about it. It just happens," Johnston said.

"It's something you might see at your home course with your mates or something."

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The affair recalled a similar incident at the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst, where a frustrated John Daly hit a moving ball in the final round.

But Daly was famed for his erratic behavior, while Mickelson has cultivated a good-guy image for nearly 30 years.

"I hope it doesnโ€™t damage his reputation too badly," said Paul Azinger, a former US Ryder Cup captain commentating for Fox television. "But he's going to take it on the chin for this one.