However, Mickelson, who initially told reporters at the Masters media room that he didn’t want to “address that specific instance,” took the opportunity to call out some unnamed PGA Tour competitors for violating the rule that came back to haunt Thompson.
During Sunday’s final round of the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the year, a TV viewer emailed tournament officials to bring their attention to the fact that, on Saturday, Thompson had slightly misplaced her ball after marking it on the 17th hole. After building a three-shot lead over the field through 12 holes on Sunday, the 22-year-old Thompson was penalized two strokes for the error, plus two more for having signed an incorrect scorecard after Saturday’s round.
Tournament officials, and golf’s governing bodies in general, were widely criticized for such a strict, and costly, application of a rule. Mickelson, as with many before him, noted that Thompson had hardly given herself a key advantage, given how little she moved the ball from its original spot and how close her putt was to the hole.
“To have a tournament be decided like that, with all the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a one-foot putt with really no advantage, just a little bit of loose marking, if you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally. I just think that’s — I think it should be reversed. I think she should be given the trophy,” Mickelson said.
The 46-year-old, seeking his sixth major and fourth title at Augusta National, was more interested, though, in making a different point. “I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” he said. “They will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.”
Mickelson added that he thought such incidents “should be handled within the tour,” with an initial warning, as opposed to how matters unfolded at the ANA Inspiration. “I think that the tour should go to those players and say, ‘Look, we’ve noticed you’ve been a little lax in how precise you’ve been in marking the ball. We’d like you to be a little bit better at it,’ ” he said, “and see if that doesn’t just kind of fix the thing.
“Because we’ve all marked the ball imprecisely, especially when you’re standing on the side of the ball like she was and not directly behind the ball, in line with the hole, where it’s easy to draw a line.”
When told about her four-stroke penalty Sunday, Thompson reacted with shock, asking, “Is this a joke?” When told it wasn’t, she replied, “This is ridiculous.”
Despite breaking into tears and needing to take a few moments before teeing off at the 13th, Thompson managed to birdie that hole and play her way back into the tie, only to lose when Ryu birdied the playoff hole. On Monday, Thompson congratulated Ryu for fighting “extremely hard” and playing “amazing golf,” while addressing what happened.
“The LPGA rules officials made a judgment call at the moment, and we as professional golfers must accept it, no matter how painful it is,” Thompson said in an Instagram post. “What happened was not intentional at all, I would never do that purposely. And I hope everyone knows that.”
When asked about his comments Tuesday, Mickelson said (via ESPN), “I feel like we’ve all kind of been a little lax at times in the markings of our golf ball, and I hate to see it cost somebody a major championship because of that,” he said. “But yet I would like to see that type of nuance of the game improved on both tours, especially ours.”