Preamble: In the third round of the U.S. Open on June 16, 2018, Phil Mickleson willfully broke a rule by hitting a moving ball on a green. Later Mickleson admitted that he knew the ball was headed off the green, and so to avoid a more dire predicament, he chased his moving ball and tapped it back toward the cup. This action ignited a controversy that wound up with Mickleson being assessed a two-shot penalty that he knew he would receive, but that was the extent of his "punishment." Some, if not many, of his professional golfing peers felt Mickleson should be disqualified. What follows is a reaction to that incident.
I'm a big fan of metaphors, particularly those phrases that lead to a greater insight, perhaps a conclusion that I had not yet considered, a reality that had been staring me in the face that I refused to see, a testament that leans toward testimony a la Dragnet's JUST THE FACTS.
That's the thing. We live in a time when the words fact and fake are used as pawns, each holding a grudge. I am over it because it has become such a dangerous phase. Seeking balm in this deviant Gilead, I have looked to my "usual" outlets for relief ... one of which is the majors for professional golf.
But yesterday's action and antics not only tarnished a game that I cherish, they also reminded me of how our culture and society have devolved, that it is increasingly difficult to ascertain what is true and what is not ... and that the interpretation of any moment can be subjective to the point of bias. This is unacceptable.
No other game, particularly games played for vast amounts of money, allows the participants to call their own fouls. For the most part, professional golfers live up to that ideal ... that no one in the game is above honor and integrity ... the recent amazing example of an amateur who called the foul on himself and it cost him a championship. That's the kind of behavior that honors this unique game. Each time a player, and only that player, sees his ball move in the rough, and calls a penalty on himself ... the meaning of golf stands stall.
This is a game where what you do matters. And those actions are irrefutable truths.
The honor is not found between the lines in a rule book. It is not subject to interpretation. You either have integrity or you don't. There are no fine lines. No judgment calls. You are either a rat or not.
That's one of the most compelling reasons to play and observe golf. It is a vastly challenging game that is demanding at all levels and in all circumstances. Toss in a USGA championship, where the course is setup to demand precision, and the stress and strain mount to Hitchcockian menace.
As much as I have tried to see Phil's side of yesterday's incident, I have failed. He went nuts, and then in the fashion of what has become a daily event, he tried to spin the reality to his own version of truth. This is unacceptable.
Honor could have been found, if Phil had just given us one of his "Phil grins" and admitted that he screwed up, that he lost his mind for a moment, and that while the rule book, hinging which judge is on the bench, protects him, Phil did far more than break a specific rule ...he tarnished the meaning of all rules when he opted to hit that ball to keep it from going off the green — which amazingly he admitted. As far as I'm concerned, that statement should have sent him home.
But what would have been even better, that after the USGA decided to let Phil slide, that Phil, thinking about what the game means and what it stands for, says, "I was wrong. I am withdrawing from this event. I don't deserve to keep playing."
And he would be a hero today.
Instead, he is just another public figure who, apparently, feels as if he is above the law.