Mickelson bewildered by 'adjustment penalty'

Fri Oct 9, 2015 8:47am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - An obscure penalty clause, tucked away in the farthest depths of golf's rulebook, took center stage at the Presidents Cup on Friday after Phil Mickelson changed the type of ball he had been playing with mid-round.

Mickelson and U.S. playing partner Zach Johnson were all square through six against the Internationals' Jason Day and Adam Scott when Mickelson switched to a harder ball to get extra distance from the tee going into the par-five seventh.

Mickelson teed off but while walking down the fairway was struck with the thought he may have broken a rule and consulted captain Jay Haas and a referee, who raised the issue with the rules committee.

After some deliberation, Mickelson was informed that he had indeed breached four-ball regulations and was disqualified from that hole, leaving Johnson to play it on his own against Day and Scott.

Day's birdie gave the Internationals their first lead in the match, but the officials were just getting started.

Realizing they had incorrectly applied the penalty for breaching the "one-ball condition", officials informed the players that the proper sanction was the 'adjustment' of one hole, meaning the United States lost two holes in one.

Despite being incorrectly disqualified, Mickelson was denied the chance to go back and finish the hole as, according to a match committee statement, it could "undermine the strategy already employed by both sides" at the hole.

"The weird thing was I've never heard of a match adjustment penalty," a bemused Mickelson told a news conference. "Never heard of that. I just thought, 'okay, well if I hit the wrong ball, no big deal, Zach will cover me this hole. I pick up, put the right ball in play the next hole'.   Continued...

U.S. team member Phil Mickelson tees off on the first hole during the practice round for the 2015 Presidents Cup golf tournament at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, October 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji