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PGA Championship 2023: Phil Mickelson loses rules debate with official, walks away lucky to avoid extra penalty

May 19, 2023

Phil Mickelson made a messy double bogey on Oak Hill's sixth hole during Friday's second round of the 2023 PGA Championship. If it weren't for a PGA rules official, however, it would have been even worse.

Mickelson's latest adventure began with him finding the hazard down the right side with his tee shot on the treacherous par 4. After taking a penalty drop, the six-time major champ was getting ready to hit his third shot from the fairway when an official approached.

During a several-minute conversation that ESPN cut in and out of, Mickelson was informed he had taken a bad drop. But the six-time major champ didn't agree.

"I appreciate you stopping me in case I’m making a mistake," Mickelson could be overheard saying. "But I don’t think that’s accurate.”

Mickelson requested and received a second opinion moments later, but another rules official agreed with the initial decision, and explained a tweak in the rules that went into effect in 2023 meant you had to keep the drop directly on the line the ball went into the penalty area. Mickelson believed he still had a two-club-length "semicircle" in which to take the drop.

“It’s OK," the second rules official said. "You dropped it improperly, but you can just move it back.”

ESPN's Michael Collins confirmed the ruling from a text he got from another rules official. And it certainly made for some interesting TV as the situation unfolded live.

After dropping for a second time, this time in the first cut of rough, Mickelson narrowly avoided the creek on his third shot. His failed up and down resulted in a double bogey that dropped him to five over and in danger of missing the 36-hole cut.

Had he played from the incorrect spot, however, he would have had to tack on another two strokes. Of course, he also may have hit a better third shot from his original better lie, but regardless, technically, the official saved him an additional penalty.

“Thanks for stopping me," Mickelson said. "I appreciated it, that would have been, I appreciate your help.”

Mickelson responded to the hiccup nicely by making three consecutive pars to shoot a two-over-par 72. At five over par for the tournament, He was able to make the cut right on the number and advance to the weekend at a difficult Oak Hill.

In the process, Mickelson made the cut in a major for the 100th time in his legendary career and for the 27th time at the PGA Championship, which tied the record held by Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd. He skipped last year's PGA after becoming the oldest major champ in history the previous year at Kiawah's Ocean Course.