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Mickelson row isn't a big deal, says McIlroy

 

By Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy sympathised with Phil Mickelson for his US Open meltdown before branding recent set-ups "a bit of a lottery" and the fallout "a massive overreaction".

The left-hander issued a belated apology for his controversial US Open actions, texting journalists: "I know this should've come sooner, but it's taken me a few days to calm down.

"My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I'm embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I'm sorry."

Struggling to handle third round conditions at Shinnecock Hills that the USGA later lamented, the five-time Major winner (48) stopped his 15ft bogey putt running off the 13th green, swatting it back towards the hole when it was still in motion.

He escaped disqualification and racked up a 10 after a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball, eventually signing for an 81 that wrecked his chances of completing the career Grand Slam this year.

While many of Mickelson's peers were critical of his actions, McIlroy was sympathetic, describing the fallout as "a massive overreaction" while at the same time admitting he would not have gone as far to protest at the course set-up.

"I was practicing when it happened," McIlroy said at the $7m Travelers Championship in Connecticut. "When I came back in, I saw what happened. Honestly, I laughed. I felt there was a massive overreaction to it.

"Knowing Phil, he knew what he was doing. A player that's been in that head space at that tournament, I can see it happening. It's a tournament that Phil has come so close to winning over the past few years.

"He's probably seen what's happened over the past few years at that tournament, and it's frustrated him. Plus it's probably becoming the hardest one to win for anyone because it is a bit of a lottery at times.

"I don't know if I'd go to the lengths that he went to, to make a statement like that, but I thought there was a massive overreaction to it."

Graeme McDowell was shocked by Mickelson's antics.

"I thought Phil could've handled it differently," McDowell said at TPC River Highlands. "If he had just held his hands up and said, 'Hey, I messed up' - it was just a crazy moment of insanity. I think it would've gone away."

Ruaidhri McGee, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Jonathan Caldwell, Dermot McElroy, Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin are in action in the Challenge Tour's SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge with Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow set to tee it up tomorrow in the Symetra Tour's Island Resort Championship in Michigan.

Meanwhile, golf is in mourning for five-time Open champion Peter Thomson (88) and former US Open and US PGA winner Hubert Green (71), who died yesterday.

Reigning Open champion Jordan Spieth paid tribute to "one of the most masterful links players" to ever play the game after the death of Thomson.

The Australian, who died aged 88 having suffered from Parkinson's disease for more than four years, won the first of his five Claret Jugs at Royal Birkdale in 1954.

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