Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot left on the 547-yard, par-5 9th at the Country Club of Virginia, and it sailed over a fence and out of bounds. He’d reload.
And do it again. Two tee shots, two penalty strokes. He was both on his fifth stroke and still on the tee during Saturday’s second round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.
Then Lanny Wadkins and John Cook took their swings.
“In this game, those foul balls count,” Cook said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
“Yeah, but he’s leading the Tour in distance so that’s important,” Wadkins said.
“Good for him, as he lies five on the tee,” Cook said.
And then the broadcast went silent for a few seconds.
Their ire drew from comments Mickelson made earlier in the week. After the tournament’s defending champion had said the CC of Virginia course would require him “to be a little bit more patient and manage my game a little bit better,’ a reporter noted that and asked: “Please correct me if I’m wrong, [but] your last win on this tour, you were 81st in driving accuracy, I think. I don’t know if I have that exactly correct, but would you get away with that here this week?”
To which Mickelson answered:
“So, I look at longest, like I try to hit it the farthest out here, and I was No. 1 in driving distance. That’s the way I look at it. If you want to look at stuff that’s irrelevant, have at it.
“What I’m looking at is distance. I want to hit it — I want to fly it 305 and try to — because I’m a really good wedge player, so if I get wedges in my hand, I’m going to be tough to beat.”
And Wadkins had at it. To open both first- and second-round coverage, the longtime pro was asked about the comments, and on Saturday he said: “Life is just much easier from the fairway.”
“The fast lane is not necessarily the long lane,” Wadkins continued. “Let’s find the short grass and see what we can do. I think we had another stat — out of like the top eight players, nobody was ranked inside the top 30 in distance this week. So the guys that are leading this tournament at this golf course, they’re putting it in the fairway. We’ve got really tough Bermuda rough here — ball sinks to the bottom.
“I don’t care what club you have in your hand, if you’re in the rough with the ball down, you’re not going to get close to these greens that are running 13 and a half.”
Which brings us back to the 9th, which was Mickelson’s finishing hole. His third tee shot would find the fairway, he’d end up with a quadruple-bogey nine, and he’ll start Sunday’s final round 14 shots behind leader Steve Flesch.
And for the record, Mickelson is first in the field this week in driving distance.
“Shocking,” Cook said on the broadcast after Mickelson’s last tee shot.