There’s a new golf rule change on Tour that’s garnering praise on the putting surface — and no, it has nothing to do with the flagsticks.
In 2019, the USGA changed its rules to allow golfers to repair almost any damage on the green that might have previously impacted putts. The rule includes “all types of damage (such as ball-marks, shoe damage, indentations from a club or flagstick, animal damage, etc.), except aeration holes, natural surface imperfections or natural wear of the hole.”
Count Phil Mickelson a fan, especially at Bethpage.
“Huge difference, I think,” he said, after his round on Friday, in which he posted a 71. “I think with greens as fast as these are, any type of imperfection or bump or whatever is really brought out, and to be able to smooth them out and fix those, I think makes a big difference, especially inside four or five feet.”
The logic makes sense. With shorter putts, it’s easier to see any blemishes that may exist in your line. Fixing them assures immunity from re-direction and, perhaps more importantly, offers some peace of mind.
This becomes particularly important in the afternoons, after several groups have already created some wear and tear.
“You don’t really do much outside of 20 feet because you can’t see them all,” he said “but I think it’s really helped with the short putts and I think it’s made for the afternoon rounds to have a much better or less disadvantage.”
Mickelson, currently tied for 27th place at even par, is currently ranked eighth in the field in putting and tied for 13th in average putts per green in regulation on the week. Ultimately, Mickelson took just 25 putts in his second round after totaling 30 on Thursday.
Spurred by a raucous New York gallery, Mickelson has hung around heading into the weekend. Of course, Brooks Koepka — currently 12 under par — continues to make it clear that someone is going to have to go get him. Maybe Phil can leave himself enough short putts to make it interesting.
The other rule change that people have been talking about is this one: “There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole.” Players will still have the option to remove the flagstick or to have someone tend the pin and remove it after the ball is struck.
The main reason for this change was to generally help speed up play, but even many weekend players are leaving in the pin because of another reason: they feel it helps them make more putts, and statistics have supported this thinking.
–Max Marcovitch | golf.com (Lee Hartman, Metro Voice News, contributed to this report)