Phil Mickelson helped shift focus for LIV to the golf after Masters, but then went back to whining

Phil Mickelson reacts to a tee shot on the 16th hole during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship.

Phil Mickelson reacts to a tee shot on the 16th hole during Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Things have not gone exactly to plan for Phil Mickelson.

The 52-year-old was hoping to capitalize on an inspiring performance at the Masters in which he and Brooks Koepka flew the LIV Golf banner by tying for second, but the first two days at the PGA Championship have not been quite what he envisioned.

Mickelson narrowly made the cut after a 2-over 72 Friday that put him at 5-over for the tournament. That’s because the Oak Hill Country Club East Course has been quite a challenge this week, leaving many to compare it to a U.S. Open setup.

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“I think it’s an incredible test,” said Mickelson, who ties Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd with 27 made cuts at the PGA Championship. He now has made 100 cut in majors.

“I came in here very optimistic. The first two days I’ve played terrible. I’ve driven it poorly. I’ve not felt good with the putter. I haven’t chipped great. My irons have been average.”

Then there’s Mickelson’s latest controversy in the never-ending war between LIV and, well, everyone else.

This time Mickelson took aim at the USGA and its CEO, Mike Whan, for a ruling that likely will keep LIV golfer Talor Gooch out of next month’s U.S. Open even after Gooch won back-to-back LIV events last month.

But that really does not impress many people.

Gooch believed he was exempt for the U.S. Open because he qualified for the Tour Championship. But he was not eligible to play in the PGA Tour’s season finale because of his decision to join LIV.

The USGA ruled a golfer not only had to qualify but also be eligible for the Tour Championship to play in their event.

That set off Mickelson who fired off a couple of vulgar, whiny tweets calling out Whan, asking how Gooch should not take that personally and saying it’s a direct attack on Gooch and his career.

The language got colorful and Mickelson doubled down in a second tweet.

Gooch had a chance to give Mickelson the last laugh by playing his way into the U.S. Open. He would have to be ranked in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Rankings on June 12.

He had a chance sitting at No. 63 this week. But missing the cut at 10-over ended that. Gooch shot 76-74.

Mickelson’s actions since the start of this war have not been a good look for himself or LIV. Of course, he is not the only one. This is true for some of those on both sides. But after LIV’s impressive showing at the Masters with Mickelson and Koepka sharing second behind Jon Rahm, and Patrick Reed tied for fourth, for the first time the attention surrounding the Saudi-financed league was on the golf.

Then, once again, Mickelson could not help himself and reacted impulsively. That shifted the focus right back to where it has been the past year – not the golf. But this is something we’ve seen from the face of LIV (when it comes to the players) whether it’s his mouth or his social media.

Mickelson should learn from his nemesis, Rory McIlroy, LIV’s biggest antagonist among PGA Tour players. McIlroy this week decided to back off the rhetoric. Mickelson would be doing the LIV a big favor if the does the same.

Now, Mickelson is in a spot to put that focus back on the golf at the year’s second major.

It has not started out very well, yet he sees hope.

“It makes me optimistic that I still made the cut playing as poorly as I did, and I think if I can get it turned around,” he said. “I can make a run.”

Just think about how good he would have felt if he had not put his drive on No. 6 into Allens Creek. Mickelson had to take a drop and then hit his third shot into the primary rough.

The double bogey took him from 3-over to 5-over and, at the time, below the cut line.

The 503-yard, par 4, sixth hole is playing the toughest on the course.

“I think 500 yards into the wind with water up the right and by the green, it just makes for a tough hole,” Mickelson said.

Still, Mickelson believes low scores are possible. And although just a handful of golfers were under par going into the weekend, one of the better rounds on Friday was submitted by one of Mickelson’s playing partners, Jupiter’s Patrick Cantlay.

Cantlay carded a 67 with five birdies and a couple of bogeys.

“I’m just a fraction off,” Mickelson said. “This is as bad as I’ve played in a long time and yet I’m still here on the weekend and I have a chance to turn it around.

“The course is there to have a good low number if I play really well … it’s not far off. If I can just get it to click, I have a chance to make a run, but I’m going to have to go work on it right now.”

And then maybe Mickelson once again can shift that LIV narrative, at least for a few days.

PGA Championship


Oak Hill East Course, Rochester, N.Y.

Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

Defending champ: Jupiter’s Justin Thomas


This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Phil Mickelson played ‘terrible,’ but believes he can carry LIV banner into weekend at PGA Championship

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