Phil Mickelson Narrowly Avoids Penalty After 2023 Rule Change

Mickelson almost received a penalty for not knowing one of the new rules changes for 2023

Phil Mickelson looks on at the PGA Championship
The left-hander almost made a rules breach until an official stepped in
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson said he was "appreciative" of a rules official after he was saved a stroke for an incorrect drop on Friday at the PGA Championship.

Lefty drove it into the penalty area on the difficult 6th hole at Oak Hill - the same hole where Tom Kim got caked in mud on Thursday - so needed to take a drop. He opted to back as far as he liked, keeping the point of entry and pin in line, and then dropped within two club lengths of that point.

However, the rules changed at the start of 2023 so players can only drop their ball within one club length of the selected point.

The rule change was as follows according to the R&A:

"Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped."

Luckily for the six-time Major winner, a rules official spotted that he had got it wrong and promptly corrected him on it.

"I ended up hitting it in the hazard and took line-of-sight and came back," Mickelson explained after his second round. "I didn't know that they changed the rule this year, whereby you normally could take the point in line and then you have that two-club-length semicircle.

"And I guess in January they changed that to where you just only get line-of-sight, so the guy came over and saved me a penalty because I had dropped it in the ruling under last year and didn't realize it had been changed, and he came and saved me a stroke, so I was very appreciative."

Someone who did commit a rules breach on Friday at Oak Hill was Cameron Young, who moved his marker on one of the putting greens but forgot to replace it. He received a two-stroke penalty and has missed the cut at nine-over.

The save from the rules official may just have ensured that Mickelson makes his 100th Major championship cut this weekend as he finished up right on the projected cut line at the time. The 52-year-old carded rounds of 73 and 72 for a five-over-par total.

"I came in here very optimistic," he said of his play. "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.

"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, I can make a run."

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV