R&A would have taken tougher stance on Phil Mickelson

R&A officials have hinted that had Phil Mickelson attempted his hitting-a-moving-ball stunt at The Open he would have been disqualified.

Phil Mickelson during a practice round at Carnoustie. Picture: Jon Super/AP

At last month’s US Open, the five-time major winner badly overhit a putt on the 13th green in the third round and then ran after it to hit it again while it was still rolling to prevent it travelling off the putting surface.

The American incurred a two-shot penalty for a breach of rule 14-5, although many players and ex-professionals felt he should have been disqualified under rule 33-7, which also gives a tournament committee the right to disqualify a player for a serious breach of etiquette.

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R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said they had considered what would happen in a similar, albeit unlikely, scenario this week and suggested they would probably come to a different decision, most likely using rule 33-7.

“We understand the USGA and the referees’ decisions that were made at Shinnecock, and we completely respect those decisions,” said Slumbers, who has spoken to Mickelson this week on his arrival for the 147th Open at Carnoustie.

“In the event of a similar situation this week, clearly, the first thing is you understand the facts because you never get the same situation and there will be lots of reasons.

“But we have looked very carefully at the rules and I don’t think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport.

“We would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.

“There are other parts of the rule book which refer to etiquette and the powers of the committee, and we’re fully aware of those clauses that are in that rule.”

The Open has returned to Carnoustie for the first time in 11 years but there have been some concerns expressed locally that the event is becoming too big for the town, having significantly grown in size since 2007.

It is not an issue the R&A are worried about, though.

“Carnoustie is is a great links course. Actually, once you get here, there is plenty of space to build it,” added Slumbers.

“If you go back to 1999, bringing the Open here transformed Carnoustie.

“It transformed it in terms of the money that was invested in the golf course, in the golf club, in the infrastructure around here to make it happen.

“The Open brings huge value to Carnoustie as a golf course and as a town for decades to come, and this course is driven by tourists playing here.

“At the moment, we have no concerns over any of our Open venues from an infrastructure point of view.”