Just about everyone was still talking Sunday about slapping back a runaway putt the day before. Everyone but Mickelson, that is.
He spent a half hour after his round with Rickie Fowler working the rope line, signing autographs for fans and posing for selfies, but skipped talking to reporters, walking briskly to the players’ hospitality tent, flanked by handlers and local police. He did make a couple of comments as he walked.
“I had a good time,” he said, his round of 69 a dozen shots better than the day before. “Rickie played great. I played better [than Saturday]. It was a good day.”
The U.S. Golf Assn., meanwhile, felt compelled to further clarify its ruling from Saturday, defending its decision to assess Mickelson a two-stroke penalty on the play instead of disqualifying him from the tournament. It was at least the third such clarification in a 24-hour period.
In a written statement, the USGA said Mickelson’s infraction was not a violation of rule 1-2, which can result in disqualification because he “made a stroke at the ball” as opposed to “another act to deflect or stop the ball in motion.” In other words, according to the USGA, had he simply stopped the ball as it was rolling off the green, he would have been subject to disqualification.
Fowler, for one, did not have an issue with the decision.
“I think it should be almost the same as taking the unplayable in a way,” Fowler said, citing a rule that includes a one-stroke penalty. “If you’re able to take an unplayable in any situation, really, and put it back to where you hit it before, I don’t think it’s any breach of etiquette or anything like that.”
Asked if he’s ever considered hitting a ball out of frustration while it’s still moving, Fowler said: “I think more so the times when you’re playing with your buddies, and you just want to slap it away as far as you can possibly hit it.”
A numbers game
Patrick Rodgers, who was three under par in his Sunday round, offered a compelling statistical case study for precisely when the playing field tilted and Shinnecock became ridiculously difficult.
“I should probably bite my tongue a little bit here, but I think my scores this week kind of tell the whole story,” he said. “I shot 72, 72, 83, 67. So I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what one was the day where they lost the golf course a little bit.”
Grounds crews applied “appropriate levels of water” to the greens Saturday night and Sunday morning before play began, the USGA said, and some hole locations were moved to the area where the Round 1 pins were.
“They finally listened to the players a little bit,” Rodgers said. “So yeah, scores were a lot lower, and I think they were a little bit more generous with the pins.”
Playing like pros
Matt Parziale and Costa Rica’s Luis Gagne tied for low-amateur honors at 16 over. Gagne is a student at Louisiana State, and Parziale is a firefighter from Brockton, Mass.
Parziale, who tried to scratch out a living as a touring pro before joining the workaday world, said he has no plans to return to that golfing life.
“I’m not going to turn pro,” he said. “I’ve done that before. If they want to give me a Tour card, I’ll go play. But I’m not going to go back and play mini tours.”
As for Gagne, he qualified for sectionals with a coin flip. Last month, at Orange Tree in Orlando, Fla., he and competitor Cristian DiMarco tied but had left the course so they couldn’t participate in a playoff.
“Getting that coin flip to go my way was – that’s what started the whole thing,” Gagne said.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer