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Phil Mickelson & Rickie Fowler left aggrieved by PGA decision
Darkness was closing in during the final hole of the US PGA Championship this past Sunday – and with dying light came an odd protocol which has left a couple of players scratching their heads.
In an effort to assure the tournament concluded before visibility became impossible, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler motioned for eventual winner Rory McIlroy and playing partner Bernd Wiesberger to hit their tee shots so they would not have to wait for Mickelson and Fowler to finish the hole.
However, the situation became a little odd when PGA of America officials allowed McIlroy and Wiesberger to hit their second shots to the green – all the while leaving Mickelson and Fowler waiting near the par-5’s putting surface.
This is a typical courtesy which players will at times offer, although no one would have expected it to be forthcoming in those circumstances.
And it appears that Fowler was left none too pleased by the development, as he, along with Mickelson, trailed by two shots as the hole was unfolding, said: "We were cool with hitting the tee shot. We weren't expecting the approach shots. Typically, if it's getting dark and they are going to the blow the horn [to suspend play], you at least get the guys off the tee and it gives them the opportunity to play. We weren't expecting the approach shots."
However, Kerry Haigh, Chief Championship Officer of the PGA of America, explained that he believed the players in the last group asked to play as four but were denied their request. He also said it was his understanding that the players allowed the final group to hit their approach shots to the green, although Fowler strenuously disputed this.
So why does it matter?
Because McIlroy would normally have had to wait for the entire hole to unfold in front him, it was decided to allow him to play through. The decision may not have mattered, but had Mickelson or Fowler holed their respective shot for eagle, it might have altered the way McIlroy played the hole. As it turned out, he was able to simply hit the golf ball up into the greenside bunker before those shots were played.
"It changes things a little bit," Fowler added. "Obviously, there is no waiting. Phil and I waited on the tee for a good amount of time and had to hit tee shots. In a way, [McIlroy and Wiesberger] never got out of rhythm as far as hitting the golf shots. I don't think it really changes it much. We were allowing them to hit the tee shots and we weren't expecting the approach shots to come."
Mickelson managed to stop short of outright criticising the situation in a television interview after the game, but the Callaway man was clearly agitated on the green. "It's not a big deal either way," he said.
When asked for his opinion, winner McIlroy said: "The guys let us play up with our drives and they didn't need to do that. They could have just left us on the tee box there and just play normally. They showed a lot of class and a lot of sportsmanship doing that. I thanked Rickie and Phil in the scorer's area, and reiterated what I said in my speech out there on the 18th green.
"It was a classy move by them, and if they had not done that, we might not have been able to get it all done because it was really getting dark out there."