The new rules were always going to have their share of naysayers. But so far, it’s fair to say that the overall reaction to the rule that allows players to putt with the flagstick in has been positive. Jordan Spieth was seen tapping in putts with it in at the Sony Open. Bryson DeChambeau, as expected, already has it down to a science. Over on the Web.com Tour, a mic’d up Maverick McNealy said he wanted to do it on a tap-in putt “because I can.” In that same event in the Bahamas, Marty Dou clinched the victory with a bomb of a birdie putt on the 72nd hole that hit the pin and dropped. Even Augusta National is likely going to allow it. It’s a full blown movement at this point.
Phil Mickelson, however, isn’t joining team flagstick any time soon.
From everything we saw, Lefty didn’t leave the flagstick in during his first-round 60, unless you count his beautiful chip-in birdie at the par-4 14th. As for putts on the green, Mickelson putted like it was 2018, with the pin out. On Friday though, the five-time major champion gave it a shot on the par-5 fourth on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. After hitting the green in two, he had 75 feet left for eagle, a putt he missed. On his next putt for birdie he left the pin in and missed again, and it sounds like an experience he’s not interested in reliving. Here’s what he had to say about that particular instance post round:
“I did [leave the pin in] and it felt very uncomfortable,” Mickelson said. “I kind of eased into it thinking that if I hit it too hard it might hit the pin and miss, so I don’t think I’ll do that again.”
This isn’t to say Mickelson will never do it again, especially if DeChambeau gets in his ear about it. But we doubt we’ll see it again this week or in the near future. And that wasn’t the only new rule Lefty had trouble with. At the par-4 18th, Mickelson took a drop from the cart path and committed the sin of nearly dropping it from shoulder height before doing it from knee height per the new drop rule. Safe to say he’s a bit confused in his first start with the new rules in 2019.
“I feel uncomfortable right now because I don’t know, I don’t know them [the new rules] well enough and I’ve been trying to get like a seminar to learn them all and I just haven’t had time or a chance to. So playing this game, not knowing the rules, is unsettling feeling, so hopefully I’ll figure out, I’ll be able to get a seminar and learn them.”
Let’s hope he doesn’t run into any more issues on the weekend, when he’ll look to maintain his 36-hole lead as he tries to win his 44th PGA Tour event. But knowing Phil, and remembering his controversial season with the old rules last year, literally anything is possible.