It’s not often the venue gets more ink than the star performers, but it happened this week.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club course became the story, overshadowing players like Tiger Woods and overwhelming stars like Zach Johnson.
But Exhibit A was undoubtedly Phil Mickelson, one of the world’s most popular golfers and one of the best of all time. To say Mickelson lost his cool would be an understatement. Players and spectators were using phrases like “went mental, “had a meltdown,” and “flipped his lid.”
Mickelson was on the 13th hole Saturday — a hole players were complaining about all day. Mickelson was already putting for a bogey when the missed shot began rolling past the hole and quickly down the other side of the green. He raced to catch up to it and hit the ball back toward the hole — while it was still moving. No one in attendance had ever seen it happen before.
He missed that shot attempt, too. And the next one. Counting a two-stroke penalty, it gave Mickelson a 10 for the hole en route to an 81 for the afternoon.
Mickelson, who barely made the cut Friday, was already having a miserable round Saturday as he bogeyed six of his first 12 holes, seething about the gusting winds and drying greens. On the 13th hole, the cup was placed close to the edge, making it impossible to approach — anything that didn’t go in went rolling away.
“Look, I don’t mean disrespect by anybody,” Mickelson said. “No question, it was going to go down off the green behind the bunker. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.”
Johnson was more matter-of-fact. “The USGA has lost the course,” he declared, speaking not only of the drying greens but also of the course’s ability to provide a fair test for golfers.
Mike Davis, a USGA official, acknowledged Saturday, “The golf was too tough today.” Shinnecock had endured similar criticism when it hosted the Open in 2004. This time around was better but, “There were some aspects of this setup that went too far where well executed shots weren’t awarded, but were penalized,” Davis said, admitting it was a tale of two golf courses. “Frankly, we just missed it with the wind. It blew harder than we thought.”
Ian Poulter, after shooting a 76 Saturday, lit into Davis: “Did Bozo set up this course?” he asked. “How can they keep doing this over and over?” Poulter threw everyone under the bus, complaining that the traffic “caused players to miss their tee time” and stating the fans were too loud.
Shinnecock had its share of supporters. Yahoo called it, “Maybe the greatest and toughest championship venue in the country.”