Phil Mickelson, under a pre-2019 rule, may not have won this weekend’s Champions Tour event.
But this, of course, is 2021.
During Sunday’s final round of the Furyk and Friends tournament, Mickelson shot a four-under 68, finished two shots ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez and won his third senior circuit tournament in just four overall starts. All of that, however, was in question on the par-4 16 at Timuquana Country Club.
There, after slicing his tee shot into the trees, he began to clear pine straw around his ball ahead of his second shot — only for the ball to roll a half-turn to the left as he stood to the right of it. Mickelson would plead his case to an official, arguing for an application of Rule 9.2, which had been revised in early 2019.
According to the USGA, the rule now states: “A player, opponent or outside influence is found to have caused the ball to move if the player, opponent or outside influence was known or virtually certain to have caused it to move; otherwise it is assumed that natural forces caused it to move.” Prior to 2019, according to a USGA release, the ruling would have been based on “weight of the evidence/more likely than not.”
“And then later, the ball moved an inch or two,” Mickelson was heard telling an official on the Golf Channel broadcast.
“OK, you’re just going to have to determine if you caused the ball to move,” the official said.
“Yeah, I know I didn’t, but — because the stuff I moved wasn’t around the ball. … I just didn’t know what the new rule is. The old rule was … “
The official then described that rule.
“Yeah, it was a minute at least,” Mickelson said.
“But you’re just going to have to make that call whether you caused it to move,” the official said.
“OK, very good, thank you,” Mickelson said.
From there, Mickelson would punch out, pitch on and one-putt for par. After a par on the next hole, the 17th, he was told by rules official Brian Claar that a video review had confirmed the initial ruling and that there would be no penalty. Mickelson would finish the tournament with a birdie and win by two.
“You start moving pine straw around — there’s long needles. So … interesting,” said Golf Channel analyst John Cook, himself a longtime player.