Phil Mickelson Slams USGA CEO Mike Whan Over Rule Change

The six-time Major winner embarked on a Twitter tirade defending fellow LIV Golf player Talor Gooch and criticising Whan

Phil Mickelson takes a shot during the 2023 LIV Golf Singapore event
Phil Mickelson has repeatedly criticised Mike Whan on Twitter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Over the past fortnight, a lot has been made of the USGA changing their qualifying criteria for the US Open, which means that LIV golfer Talor Gooch, is currently not in the field for the third Major championship of the season.

Although USGA CEO, Mike Whan, defended the decision, stating: "Any time we make changes to our criteria going forward, it impacts somebody and that stinks, but we can only look forward," Phil Mickelson, who has featured in every LIV event, has unleashed a tirade on Twitter, with Lefty not happy with the way Gooch will miss out on a potential spot at the US Open.

In response to a graphic posted on Twitter containing that quote, Mickelson wrote: “Hey Mike, what about changing a rule and making it retroactive to exclude someone who has already qualified? How can Talor Gooch not take that personal? It’s a direct attack on him and his career. How does it benefit the usga or US open? It doesn’t. Just a d!*k move.”

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Mickelson was far from finished there, though, and soon doubled down on his opinion of the change - and Whan. He wrote: “He qualified 9 months ago via Tour championship. 3 months ago Whan changed the wording on the qualifying criteria to take it away. Total d!*k move by Whan. He leads our governing body. Sad.” 

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As the debate rolled on, one account tweeted: “You left something out, cowboy. He was suspended because he played in LIV events without a release. Niemann played in the Tour Championship and then left for the LIV tour, and is eligible for the US Open. Gooch wants to leave when he wants and play where he wants. Selfish child.” 

Once again, though, Mickelson was quick to defend Gooch and criticise Whan. He responded: “Hey cowboy, The USGA is not the pga tour. His pga tour suspension has nothing to do with the USGA. The rule clearly stated he qualified via tour championship. He did not have to play. Whan changed the rule 6 months after the fact to exclude him. Like I said, a d!*k move.”

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Still Mickelson had more to say on the matter, and then suggested Whan was harming his own authority with the move. He wrote: "I hope he qualifies too and if he plays well at the PGA he will get in on world ranking. The real problem is having a leader of our governing body making power hungry, collusive, retroactive decisions targeting individuals. Anything he does from now on is totally undermined."

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There were more tweets from Mickelson in a similar vein, including one explaining the USGA were the only authority to make the change retroactively, which once again contained a dig at Whan. He wrote: "They did make the same verbiage change except did not make it retroactive. They let gooch play this year since he’d already qualified under the set criteria. USGA and Whan are the only ones to take the spot away. Total 'Whan move.'"

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Both Mickelson and Gooch will play in the PGA Championship later in the month. The 52-year-old has no concerns about his eligibility for the US Open thanks to his PGA Championship win two years ago. As for Gooch, he can still make it to the third Major of the year if he's in the world's top 60 following the Oak Hill Country Club event.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.