Phil Mickelson’s controversial participation in the EDS Byron Nelson Championship is not sitting well with many of his peers, particularly Robert Allenby.
Allenby and others are upset not so much with Mickelson, but with the PGA Tour for allowing Mickelson to play, even though the three-time major winner missed Wednesday’s pro-am after being stranded by bad weather in Arkansas, where he played a Tuesday outing.
Such an absence leads to an automatic disqualification from the tournament proper, except in “extenuating circumstances”. The tour, however, decided Mickelson’s circumstances were extenuating and granted the world number four a reprieve.
“A lot of players are not happy,” world number 19 Allenby said after the first round.
Allenby, however, was not buying the tour line, pointing out that Retief Goosen was disqualified from the 2005 Nissan Open after missing his pro-am tee time, due to oversleeping.
“I like Phil, but when the tour set a precedent, they’ve got to stick with it,” Allenby said. “He (Mickelson) checked into the hotel here when I checked in on Monday.
“He came here, was on site, and he elected to go somewhere else, knowing the weather was going to be crappy. He took the risk. Take the risk and you pay the penalty.”
Allenby believes Goosen has every reason to be bitter about the tour’s perceived double standard.
“At least he made an effort. He got there five or 10 minutes late and he’s disqualified.”
Players have also questioned whether Mickelson could have made an early departure in his private jet on Wednesday morning to arrive at the course in time for his 7am start.
But Mickelson was vague, when asked about that.
“We ended up sitting on the runway (in Little Rock on Tuesday night) for a couple of hours and then decided to stay over,” he said after a one-under 69 that left him four shots from the lead.
First-round leader Sean O’Hair reeled off seven birdies in a five-under-par 65 at Cottonwood Valley, one stroke better than defending champion Brett Wetterich and Dane Anders Hansen.