Phil Mickelson uses bizarre rules break (and driver off the pine straw!) to make wild birdie
Phil Mickelson is 17 under through his first two rounds on the PGA Tour Champions, and with that score in mind, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that he’s faced no adversity in his senior circuit debut. But you would be wrong.
On Tuesday, the five-time major champion faced a tricky situation after a wayward drive. But with the help of the rules book, and his driver, Mickelson was able to right the ship and turn it into a positive.
It all happened on the 9th hole at Ozarks National. He’d already made four birdies in Round 2 by that point, moving him to 14 under for the tournament. Phil had been pounding his driver all week at the Charles Schwab Series, representing the biggest advantage he has had over his competition. So it was no surprise when he pulled it out again for the par-5.
But instead of striping it into the fairway, he lost his drive to the left, where it nestled up behind a tree, blocking his path to the green and preventing him from taking a full swing. That’s when things got weird.
As he was examining the situation, Mickelson noticed a wire hanging from the tree that he claimed interfered with his swing path. He then conferred with rules officials, telling them, “I’m going to get hurt, potentially,” and they allowed him to take a free drop, based on Rule 16.1a., which allows players to take a drop when faced with “abnormal course conditions.”
With the drop, Mickelson was given a path to the green and room to swing. That’s when he decided to double down on his good break. In a truly Phil moment, instead of taking an iron and punching out, he decided to hit his driver off the pine straw.
“The reason I did that was there was a post and I had left-to-right wind and I was going to have to play right of that post and that wind was going to take it further right…,” Mickelson explained after his round. “A driver off the deck cuts almost automatically, so I didn’t have to do anything to that shot. I could hit the driver right of that post and I felt it was going to cut back into the wind without having to do too much at impact.”
His hero shot ambled up just short of a greenside bunker, and he got up-and-down from there for an unlikely birdie. That moved him to 15 under for the tournament. Mickelson would eventually get to 17 under, giving him a four-shot lead heading into Wednesday’s final round.