TV Viewer Fails to Put The Bag on Mick­el­son

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Leonard Shapiro

AU­GUSTA, Ga., April 7 — Phil Mick­el­son was al­lowed to play the third round Satur­day af­ter the tour­na­ment’s rules com­mit­tee de­cided he had done no wrong at the 18th tee Fri­day when the shadow from his up­right golf bag ap­par­ently shielded his ball from the glare of the sun.

An uniden­ti­fied television viewer called Au­gusta Na­tional af­ter Fri­day’s tele­cast to say that Mick­el­son, the de­fend­ing cham­pion, had pos­si­bly vi­o­lated Rule 14-2, which states that a player can­not “ac­cept phys­i­cal as­sis­tance or pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments.”

The com­plaint even­tu­ally reached Fred Ri­d­ley, the chair­man of the tour­na­ment’s com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee and a for­mer U.S. Golf As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent. Ac­cord­ing to Au­gusta Na­tional spokesman Glenn Greenspan, Ri­d­ley re­viewed the television tape with rules of­fi­cials on Fri­day night. When Mick­el­son and his cad­die, Jim Mackay, ar­rived at the course Satur­day morn­ing, they met with Ri­d­ley and the com­mit­tee to dis­cuss what had tran­spired.

“Af­ter speak­ing with Phil and his cad­die, they de­ter­mined there was no rules vi­o­la­tion,” Greenspan said. “Ap­par­ently there was no in­tent, and there­fore no vi­o­la­tion.”

If the com­mit­tee had de­cided there was in­tent to use the bag to his com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, Mick­el­son could have been dis­qual­i­fied.

‘Wal­rus’ Fi­nally Bogs Down

Craig Stadler fin­ished up his fi­nal round this past Sun­day at the Ginn Cham­pi­onship on the Cham­pi­ons Tour with two dou­ble bo­geys and a bo­gey on his last five holes and came to Au­gusta on the 25th an­niver­sary of his 1982 Masters vic­tory with pre­dictably low ex­pec­ta­tions for the week.

In­stead, his putting stroke came alive in the first two rounds, and he found him­self tied for 15th place en­ter­ing the week­end, match­ing the same 3-over-par 147 score posted by Tiger Woods over the first 36 holes. Now 53, “The Wal­rus” was the only player over 50 in the top 20 en­ter­ing the week­end.

“You make a good cou­ple of wedges in there and hit a cou­ple of putts and it makes all the dif­fer­ence in the world,” Stadler said. “You can fool a lot of peo­ple into think­ing you’re play­ing good with a put­ter that’s nice to you.”

Stadler had lit­tle such luck in the third round Satur­day, mak­ing a triple bo­gey at the 155-yard 12th hole en route to a 78.

Cou­ples Has Gloomy Out­look

Fred Cou­ples had only played two rounds of tour­na­ment golf this year be­fore he ar­rived here for his 23rd Masters and wasn’t even sure his chron­i­cally balky back would al­low him to get through the prac­tice rounds. But he was still swing­ing the club Satur­day, hav­ing made the cut for a Masters record-ty­ing 23rd straight time, join­ing Gary Player in the record book. He shot 78 in the third round and was at 14 over for the tour­na­ment.

“Stand­ing here, I feel hor­ri­ble,” Cou­ples said Fri­day af­ter his sec­ond straight 76 made the cut on the num­ber. “It’s been a long time. It’s kind of driv­ing me nuts. Some­thing has to hap­pen so I feel much bet­ter.”

Cou­ples, 47, said he could fore­see not play­ing again on the PGA Tour this year and pos­si­bly not com­ing back here next year if his back prob­lems con­tinue. The Masters “might be the only one I play in” the rest of the 2007 sea­son.

“If I come back next year and don’t feel good, then there’s noth­ing much I can do about it,” he said. “If I play medi­ocre, I don’t know why I would do that. Why would you? I’d go surf­ing.”

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