AUGUSTA (Georgia) • Phil Mickelson, the three-time Masters champion, accused some of his rivals of cheating on the eve of this year's tournament.
The American said on Tuesday that there were players on the PGA Tour who deliberately moved their ball after marking it in order to gain an illegal advantage.
"A number of guys on Tour are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it," he said. "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. That kind of stuff needs to stop."
The five-time Major champion also waded into the rules row that has been rumbling since Lexi Thompson was given a four-stroke penalty after a TV viewer sent an e-mail to the LPGA Tour during the final round of the ANA Inspiration event on Sunday. It cost her victory in a play-off, sparking a row about call-ins from viewers.
"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 it should be reversed," Mickelson said. "I think that she should be given the trophy."
1ST ROUND TEE TIMES
Selected (USA unless stated)
9.06pm (Singapore time):
Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Adam Hadwin (Can)
9.28pm: Adam Scott (Aus), Kevin Kisner, Andy Sullivan (Eng)
10.12pm: Russell Knox (Sco), Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn)
10.34pm: Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer (Ger), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
10.45pm: Phil Mickelson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp), Kim Si Woo (Kor)
10.56pm: Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose (Eng), Jason Day (Aus)
Ernie Els (Rsa), Jason Dufner, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut)
12.24pm: Danny Willett (Eng), Matt Kuchar, Curtis Luck (Aus)
12.46am: Angel Cabrera (Arg), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
1.19am: Sergio Garcia (Esp), Lee Westwood (Eng), Shane Lowry (Irl)
1.41am: Rory McIlroy (Nir), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Jon Rahm (Esp)
2.03am: Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker
Thompson had been leading the event when a viewer pointed out that she had incorrectly marked her ball during her third round.
The American incurred a two-stroke penalty, which was doubled because she then signed an incorrect scorecard.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy also defended Thompson and hit out at the armchair snitches.
"It was tough on Lexi," he said. "The two-shot penalty, fine. There was a rules infraction there. I get it.
"But two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard? She didn't know she was signing an incorrect scorecard at the time and she didn't have a chance to rectify that.
"That was the one that really I think outraged most people.
"I know Lexi and I've known her for a few years. She is not a cheat. She's a great girl, a great player, a great competitor."
Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time Major winner, said anything not caught before the round ends should not be reviewable afterwards.
"That isn't necessarily what (the rule) is. But that's what I think," he said.
McIlroy said the act of marking, putting a flat round holding spot on the green and picking up the ball, is an imprecise act to start with.
"It doesn't go exactly in the same place again," said the Northern Irishman.
"Okay, it might have moved a quarter of an inch. There may have been a rules infraction there. But I just think what's happened in the last 12 months with all these rules controversies in the game, it just doesn't put out a good image for us and for the game of golf."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE