R&A: We’ll take dim view if Lefty repeats moving ball stunt

Phil Mickelson: His behaviour at the US Open went down badly.

R&A officials have hinted that Phil Mickelson would have been disqualified had he attempted his hitting-a-moving-ball stunt at The Open.

At last month’s US Open, the five-time major winner badly overhit a putt on the 13th green in the third round and then ran after it to hit it again while it was still rolling to prevent it travelling off the putting surface.

The American incurred a two-shot penalty for a breach of rule 14-5, although many players and ex-professionals felt he should have been disqualified under rule 33-7, which also gives a tournament committee the right to disqualify a player for a serious breach of etiquette.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said they had considered what would happen in a similar, albeit unlikely, scenario this week and suggested they would probably come to a different decision, most likely using rule 33-7.

“We understand the USGA and the referees’ decisions that were made at Shinnecock, and we completely respect those decisions,” said Slumbers, who has spoken to Mickelson this week on his arrival for the 147th Open at Carnoustie.

“We have looked very carefully at the rules and I don’t think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport.

“We would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.

“There are other parts of the rule book which refer to etiquette and the powers of the committee, and we’re fully aware of those clauses that are in that rule.”

Clarke eyes a senior moment

Darren Clarke has told golf fans to expect the unexpected this weekend as the 147th Open Championship is played out on “probably the toughest of all Open venues”.

The 2011 hero of Royal St George’s will today embark on his 27th Open, with less than a month to go to his 50th birthday and a life on the Champions Tour in the United States. Carnoustie, though, will be dominating his thoughts in the immediate future and the Portrush resident is relishing the opportunity to play in his favourite tournament once more.

“Carnoustie is probably the toughest of all Open venues,” Clarke said.

“This week, it’s firm and fast. It’ll play tricky and you’ll see some very funny shots this week. You’ll have drivers going 480 yards, 5-irons going 280 and 290 yards.

“I’m excited. I love the Open but I’m more excited because we’re one year closer to Royal Portrush. Any time you play in the Open, it’s brilliant. Turning 50, I’ve a busy schedule now in the autumn, going to play a lot of golf on the Champions Tour in America.”

Since winning the 2011 Open, Clarke has missed three cuts but also claimed three top-30 finishes, a tie for 21st his best return at Muirfield in 2013. He quietly fancies another good week this time.

“Maybe with the course playing as firm and fast and fiery as it is, maybe a little bit of experience, more than some guys, hopefully will help me this week.”

Age no barrier to Harrington hat-trick

Three years younger than Darren Clarke at 46, two-time Open champion Pádraig Harrington is also hoping links golf experience will count in his favour at Carnoustie, scene of his 2007 triumph.

If the three-time major winner were to prevail and lift the Claret Jug for a third time, Harrington, who on Sunday will be 40 days shy of his 47th birthday, would be the oldest Open champion in tournament history, eclipsing Old Tom Morris, who won the 1867 edition at Prestwick aged 46 years and 102 days.

Is it possible?

“There is no physical reason why not,” Harrington said. “I’ve been working on the mental stuff and hopefully it will turn up and be sharp mentally for 72 holes.

“You’ve got to make a few things happen and get a few breaks on top. I’m capable of hitting the ball like the young guys. It is a mentality I need more than anything else. Age isn’t a barrier.”

No Open door policy

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has defended the decision to introduce a no readmissions policy for Open ticket holders.

This year’s championship will mark the first time ticket holders will not be able to wander in and out of the tournament grounds as the R&A bids to tighten up security and clamp down on ticket fraud and unofficial hospitality packages off-site.

The policy will also be in place for next year’s visit to Royal Portrush and the R&A chief executive is adamant it is a necessary step to take.

“We have had multiple problems for multiple years with fans buying unofficial hospitality, and then not getting the experience they thought they paid for, and they blame us, yet we have nothing to do with it,” Slumbers said yesterday.

“We think the unofficial hospitality damages The Open Championship, it damages our relationship with fans, and we wished it to stop. That’s the reason we have the no readmittance policy. We’ll review it every year.

“Next year in Portrush, it actually will be an all ticket; you won’t be able to buy a ticket at the gate at Portrush next year because there’s equally a balance around security concerns for that event as well. So we are happy with where we are on the no readmission. We’re happy we’re doing it for the right reason. And we will be reviewing it every year.”

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