Phil Mickelson blew the Lexi Thompson controversy wide open here on Tuesday when declaring that there are male professional golfers who are “lax” with how they mark the ball and yet have “not been called on it”.
Thompson was penalised four shots at the first female major the season on Sunday for replacing her ball wrong spot on the 17th green in the third round of the ANA Inpisration.
The 22-year-old, who was three shots clear before being notified of the penalty during the final round, was sanctioned two shots for the infraction and another two for signing for an incorrect scorecard. Thompson eventually lost in a play-off to the Korean So Yeon Ryu.
The American has received widespread sympathy after the incident in Palm Springs, California, but, while commenting that he does not agree with viewers at home having the power to affect a ruling, Mickelson shone a light on what he claimed is an all too common practice in the professional game.
"So rather than address that specific instance, what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” Mickelson said. “I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.
“But I think it should be handled within the tour. I think that the tour should go to those players and say, look, we've noticed you've been a little lax in how precise you've been in marking the ball. We'd like you to be a little bit better at it—and see if that doesn't just kind of fix the thing."
Thompson has since said that it was a honest mistake. “What I had done was 100% not intentional at al,” she said. And Mickelson believes Thompson should be awarded the title retrospectively.
“To have a tournament be decided like that, with all the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a one-foot putt with really no advantage, just a little bit of loose marking, if you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally,” he said. “I think it should be reversed. I think that she should be given the trophy.”
Mickelson is looking for his fourth Masters title here this week and has been drawn alongside the Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello and the Korean Si Woo Kim. Matt Fitzpatrick, the young Englishman, plays with Jordan Spieth and Martin Kaymer.