The U.S. Open is slated to tee off on June 15 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
While the world’s top golfers will put their skills on display, one major name will be missing for quite a special reason.
Five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson plans to skip the event so he can attend his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California.
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While he hasn’t officially withdrawn his name from the field, he called United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis to let him know what was going on:
"I wanted to make sure they had enough notice to accommodate it,'' said Mickelson, via Bob Harig of ESPN. "So that's why I'm saying something today, but it doesn't look good for me playing. But I'm really excited about this moment in our family's life.’'
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Amanda is Mickelson’s oldest child and will also be giving the commencement speech. Therefore, it will be a day of immense pride for Phil and his wife Amy. Not even one of golf’s most storied events could make the 46-year-old miss his daughter’s special day.
By the way, his daughter will be attending Brown University, an Ivy League institution, in the fall.
That doesn’t mean that Mickelson isn’t praying for some kind of last-minute change of plans that would allow him to play in the Open.
“Back of your head, you're like, maybe something will change, maybe something will change, but nothing is really [changing], so here we are,'' Mickelson said. "She's very supportive. She's always been, 'Dad, I know you love the Open.' She's always been very supportive. But it's one of those things you just show up. You just need to be there. It wasn't really something that we discussed, because it really wasn't much of a decision.’'
His wife said she was proud of his decision, but would have understood if he decided to play instead.
“Phil desperately, desperately wants to win the U.S. Open,” she said in a telephone interview from California with Karen Crouse of the New York Times, adding: “I would have totally understood had he needed to play the U.S. Open. We could have done a video or this or that.”
In a fitting twist, Harig noted that Mickelson played in the 1999 U.S. Open with his wife due any day with Amanda. He even had his caddy carry a beeper in his golf bag because he didn’t want to miss the birth, even if he was leading the tournament.
He ended up finishing second to the late great Payne Stewart that year in one of the more iconic finishes in recent Major history.
"Yeah, I go back and, every year at the U.S. Open, I think back about that '99 Open,'' Mickelson said. "The birth of your child, any child, but especially your first child is the most emotional event you can ever experience and share together with your wife.”
He is also in awe of how time has flown by:
“I always think about that at the U.S. Open, I think about Payne Stewart (who died later that year in a plane crash), and I can't believe how quickly time has gone by. Here she is turning 18 and moving off to college, and I'm so proud of her. And she's a special person. I'm excited to see what she has to say at her commencement.''
The last time he missed a major was the 2009 U.S. Open while his wife was battling breast cancer. In 2013, he left that year’s Open to attend Amanda’s grade-school graduation and returned on an overnight flight in time to tee off just before the first round.
You can call Mickelson all you want and make assumptions and distinctions regarding his on-course play and legacy, but being a devoted father seems like a quality that he possesses off the course.
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