Earlier this week, Golf Digest ran a story from its June issue filled with anonymous player quotes critiquing the USGA. But you’d be hard-pressed to find among those anything harsher than what was said about golf’s governing body on Thursday. And one of the game's biggest stars, Phil Mickelson, was happy to attach his name to this opinion.
Following Mickelson’s opening 70 at the Memorial, the six-time U.S. Open runner-up was asked about how the USGA sets up the golf courses for its biggest annual event. He did not hold back.
“I’ve played, what, 29 U.S. Opens,” Mickelson told reporters at Muirfield Village. “One hundred percent of the time they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain. Rain is the governor. That’s the only governor they have. If they don’t have a governor, they don’t know how to control themselves.”
"So I think we're all pulling for a little rain," Mickelson added moments later.
Mickelson did more than voice his frustration during last year’s U.S. Open. In the third round at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, he staged his own mini protest by racing after a missed putt and hitting his golf ball while it was still moving. While many thought Mickelson should have been disqualified—including some of the anonymous tour pros quoted in the Golf Digest story—he received a two-shot penalty and remained in the tournament.
Later that day, the USGA acknowledged it had made a mistake in setting up Shinnecock. It was not the first time a golf course has gotten away from them in recent years—most notably in 2004 at Shinnecock when Mickelson had one of his record number of runner-up finishes—and players are worried it won’t be the last.
“If they can’t redeem themselves at Pebble Beach,” Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday, “then there could be a problem.”
In the Golf Digest story, a number of tour pros confirmed that a U.S. Open player boycott had even been discussed.
The 2019 U.S. Open is scheduled for June 13-16 at Pebble Beach. Should Mickelson make the cut, he’d turn 49 during the final round. We’re guessing the USGA won’t be providing any cake for the occasion.