By Ann Liguori
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFAN) — One after the other, the players filed in to the interview room at Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday.
Eleven of them in all, but the most compelling were Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, three guys you’d expect to be factors at one point or another during The Masters.
Day lit up the brand new, state-of-the-art interview room when he talked about hearing that his mother, who has lung cancer, doesn’t need chemotherapy. Day had flown her from her home in Australia to Ohio to have surgery.
“As everyone knows, my mom, she went through a successful surgery on her left lung and she was told by the doctor, don’t have to do chemo, which is really, really exciting stuff,” Day said. “Obviously, we have to be cautious because the first two-to-three years are very, very important.”
Day thanked everyone in the room for their well wishes and prayers. He said he’s “very, very pleased and very, very happy with how things have progressed from the start of the year to now.
“And I feel kind of a lot lighter in a sense that my mind is not weighing very much heavily on the situation that my mom was going through,” he added.
Day pulled out of the WGC Dell Technology Match Play tournament in March because of his mom’s condition. Due to back issues and his mom’s cancer, he’s had only six starts this season.
The former No. 1-ranked player in the world admitted that he’s coming into this Masters not as prepared as he’d like to be. But the 2011 runner-up looked immensely relieved and ready to focus on golf, a luxury he hasn’t had the opportunity to experience for quite some time.
Phil Mickelson is always compelling in the interview room, often very open and honest with his feelings, which sometimes opens the door to controversy. The three-time Masters champion was asked for his reaction to what happened to Lexi Thompson, the LPGA star who was assessed a four-stroke penalty when a television viewer’s email alerted officials a day later that she had misplaced her ball by one inch on the green at the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the season, this past weekend.
Phil opened up a new can of worms, so to speak, with his answer. And then when the same reporter asked him later in the press conference to clarify his response, he chose not to comment directly.
Here’s how it played out:
Question: Curious to get your reaction to what happened to Lexi, and viewers calling in.
Mickelson: “So rather than address that specific instance, what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it. I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth, and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.
“But I think it should be handled within the Tour,” he continued. “I think that the Tour should go to those players and say, ‘look, we’ve noticed you’ve been a little lax in how precise you’ve been in marking the ball. We’d like you to be a little bit better at it,’ and see if that doesn’t just kind of fix the thing. Because we’ve all marked the ball imprecisely, especially when you’re standing on the side of the ball like she was and not directly behind the ball, in line with the hole, where it’s easy to draw a line. And I think that that should have been handled within the LPGA saying, ‘hey, look, you’re a little lax in how you’re marking the ball. You need to be careful. Here’s a warning and let’s go from there.’ But to have a tournament be decided like that, with all the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a one-foot putt with really no advantage, just a little bit of loose marking, if you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally, I just think that’s … I think it should be reversed. I think that she should be given the trophy.”
Question: Just want to clarify your response on Lexi. Are you suggesting that we selectively at times ignore The Rules of Golf in certain situations?
Mickelson: “Well, this is why I’m not trying to. I didn’t want to comment on it directly because you … I don’t want my words to be taken as though I’m commenting on the specific situation. So, I don’t really have a great answer for you, Alex. I don’t really want to expand on what I’ve already said. I feel like we’ve all kind of been a little lax at times in the markings of our golf ball and I hate to see it cost somebody a major championship because of that. But yet I would like to see that type of nuance of the game improved on both tours, especially ours. So I’m not really trying to comment on that specific situation, even though it’s what brought this to the forefront.”
Rory McIlroy, who’s hoping to complete a career grand slam with a Masters victory this week, was asked what the difference is between criticizing Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland for taking so long to accept women members and playing golf with President Donald Trump. It obviously was a loaded question, but McIlroy took a few seconds to compose his thoughts before answering.
“I think Muirfield Golf Club, or the honorable company of having the golfers and the Office of the President of the United States are two completely different things,” McIlroy said. “I’ve spent time in President Trump’s company before, and that does not mean that I agree with everything that he says. Actually, the opposite. You know, we’re in a day and age where we were never in a day and age … where we could say those things, but some thought it was appropriate. But whenever an invitation or a request comes my way, I don’t want to say I jump at the chance, but at the same time, you know, to see the Secret Service, to see the scene, I mean, that’s really what I was going for. I mean, there was not one bit of politics discussed in that round of golf. He was more interested talking about the grass that he just put on the greens.
“But, yeah, look, it’s a difficult one,” McIlroy added. “I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I had turned it down. It’s not a tough place to be put in, but it was a round of golf and nothing more. Would I do it again? After the sort of backlash I received, I’d think twice about it.”
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