Monday 21 January 2019

'I felt there was a massive overreaction' - Rory McIlroy defends Phil Mickelson over US Open controversy

Phil Mickelson. Photo: PA
Phil Mickelson. Photo: PA

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy sympathised with Phil Mickelson for his US Open meltdown before branding recent set-ups "a bit of a lottery" and the fallout "a massive overreaction".

The left-hander issued a belated apology for his controversial US Open actions, texting journalists: "I know this should've come sooner, but it's taken me a few days to calm down.

"My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I'm embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I'm sorry."

Struggling to handle third round conditions at Shinnecock Hills that the USGA later lamented, the five-time Major winner (48) stopped his 15-foot bogey putt running off the 13th green, swatting it back towards the hole when it was still in motion.

He escaped disqualification by the USGA, racking up a ten after with a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball, eventually signing for an 81 that wrecked his chances of completing the career grand slam this year.

While many of Mickelson's peers were critical of his actions, McIlroy was sympathetic, describing the fallout as "a massive overreaction" while at the same time admitting he would not have gone as far to protest at the course set-up.

"I was practising when it happened," McIlroy said at the $7 million Travelers Championship in Connecticut, where he is hoping to bounce back from last week's missed cut at Shinnecock Hills and build momentum for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and The Open.

"When I came back in, I saw what happened. Honestly, I laughed. I felt there was a massive overreaction to it.

"Knowing Phil, he knew what he was doing. Look, a player that's been in that head space at that tournament, I can see it happening to people. Look, it's a tournament that Phil has come so close to winning over the past few years.

"He's probably seen what's happened over the past few years at that tournament, and it's frustrated him because it's the only one that he hasn't won.

"Plus it's probably becoming the hardest one to win for anyone because it is a bit of a lottery at times.

"I don't know if I'd go to the lengths that he went to, to make a statement like that, but I thought there was a massive overreaction to it."

Graeme McDowell was shocked by Mickelson's antics and only sorry the Californian (right) tried to argue that he used the rules in his favour instead of holding up his hands and saying he'd had a blowout.

"I thought Phil could've handled it differently," McDowell said at TPC River Highlands, where Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power complete the Irish challenge.

"I thought if he had just held his hands up and said, 'Hey, I messed up,' it was just a crazy moment of insanity. I think it would've went away."

"Watching it, it was just a moment of insanity. I don't think he needed to justify it. Just say, 'Listen, I can't believe I just did that.' It's a pretty heavy penalty, and he doesn't need to be crucified on top of that."

On the European Tour, US Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood is the star attraction in the BMW International Open where Paul McBride is the only Irish player in action at Golf Club Gut Laerchenhof.

Ruaidhri McGee, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Jonathan Caldwell, Dermot McElroy, Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin are in action in the Challenge Tour's SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge with Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow set to tee it up tomorrow in the Symetra Tour's Island Resort Championship.

  • BMW International Open, Live, Sky Sports, 10.30am
  • Travelers Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 5.30pm

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