No-show by Mickelson caused a stir

Associated Press
Phil Mickelson was allowed to play in last week's Byron Nelson Championship despite failing to meet his pro-am commitment. Mickelson didn't fly into Texas on time because of bad weather.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It looked as though Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson got off easy.


Both cases cried out for punishment. Both players were covered by the rules, although one was subject to interpretation. And in both instances, even though the circumstances were entirely different, there was outrage from their peers.

No wonder there's a perception of a double standard on the PGA Tour.

Woods hit a 9-iron on the ninth hole at Firestone last year that bounced onto and over the clubhouse roof, landing in the service entry where a kid delivering crunchy cream pies scooped up the ball and drove away.

Woods got a free drop, because the clubhouse was not marked out-of-bounds.

Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia watched this development unfold and were disgusted that Woods could get such a break. He escaped with bogey and went on to win the tournament.

Last Wednesday, Mickelson missed his pro-am at the Byron Nelson Championship. Mickelson had been in Little Rock, Ark., for a charity event, and severe thunderstorms grounded his private plane Tuesday night.

Under PGA Tour policy adopted three years ago, anyone who doesn't take part in the pro-am doesn't get to play in the tournament.

But the policy was tweaked last year to allow for "serious personal emergencies," and tour officials deemed that an act of God - the weather in this case - kept the world's No. 3 player from getting to the course.

He was allowed to play and tied for third, his best finish in two months.

"It seemed, from the outside looking in, very, very fishy," Jim Furyk said Tuesday. "Not being well enough versed on the rules, I don't know if the right call was made or not. But I understand why the red flag went up."

One reason for the red flag was name - Mickelson, the star attraction at a tournament otherwise depleted of stars.

No one was more bemused by the Mickelson ruling than Retief Goosen, the poster boy for this policy.

The two-time U.S. Open champion flew across eight time zones, from London to Los Angeles, to play in the Nissan Open two years ago. He overslept Wednesday morning and arrived 20 minutes late for his pro-am time at Riviera.

His partners were on the first green. He was out of the tournament.

Imagine his surprise when he flipped on the TV last week in time to see Mickelson talking about his round at the Byron Nelson Championship with a subtitle on the screen that said, "Missed his Wednesday pro-am."

"Obviously, they abandoned that rule," Goosen said.

He wasn't aware it had been altered over the past couple of years, and he was curious about the latest loophole.

"So he must have had a serious personal issue," Goosen said.

Yes, well, he was doing a charity event in Arkansas and storms kept his plane from leaving Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

"Where was the charity?" he said.

Little Rock.

"And how far is it to drive from there?" Goosen inquired.

The answer was a five-hour drive.

Ultimately, he concluded that it was good for the tournament that Mickelson played.

Eventual Byron Nelson Championship winner Scott Verplank drove three hours from Oklahoma that Tuesday night, calling friends in Dallas for weather updates to dodge the tornadoes.



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