Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has threatened to make himself even more unpopular with sections of the locker room with his latest comments Getty Images

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson has called on the PGA Tour to act on players ''cheating'' by deliberately moving their ball. The American claims his fellow professionals are "intentionally loose" about marking their ball and will alter its position upon replacing it on the putting surface.

The comments come amid Lexi Thompson being denied certain victory in the opening LPGA major event of the year at the ANA Inspiration after being handed a four-shot penalty for failing to replace her ball correctly – a breach of the rules spotted by a television viewer who notified officials by email. Though the incident took place during her third round, it was not acted upon until there were just six holes of the tournament remaining.

Thompson lost in a play-off to So Yeon Ryu to compound her misery, drawing sympathy from former world number one Tiger Woods who himself has suffered at the hands of trial by TV replay. But on the eve of The Masters at Augusta, the outspoken Mickelson has accused players of intentionally committing similar acts of indecency in an effort to gain an advantage.

"I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it," the three-time Masters champion, who wants Thompson retrospectively awarded her second major title, said. "I mean, 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 and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.

"But I think it should be handled within the Tour. I think that the Tour should go to those players and say, look, we've noticed you've been a little lax in how precise you've been in marking the ball. We'd like you to be a little bit better at it and see if that doesn't just kind of fix the thing."

While Mickelson's comments represent an interesting, yet perhaps unsurprising insight into life on the PGA Tour it will undoubtedly ensure that television viewers of The Masters will keep organisers busy during the four days of the opening major of 2017. Furthermore, it will increase the ill-feeling towards the 46-year-old who is already regarded as one of the most unpopular players on Tour.