For all of Phil Mickelson’s triumphs on the golf course, one of his most memorable moments came when he finished second. Now, he’s bringing that moment full circle.
Mickelson has announced that he’ll be skipping this month’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills so that he can attend his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation. There’s symmetry in that, as he very nearly missed the 1999 U.S. Open because of Amanda’s birth. At that event, Payne Stewart, who won the event in dramatic fashion over Mickelson, clasped Phil’s face in his and congratulated Mickelson on his impending fatherhood.
Now, in a way, the circle is complete; Mickelson still hasn’t won that elusive U.S. Open, but he’s placing his family first even as his chances of finally winning one diminish. Mickelson has run this gauntlet before, having flown cross-country twice before the 2013 U.S. Open to attend Amanda’s eighth-grade graduation. He made it back to Merion just two hours before his tee time, and, yes, he finished second in that one too.
“As I look back on life, this is a moment I’ll always cherish and be glad I was present,” Mickelson said on Saturday after his round at the Memorial. “There’s no greater joy as a parent.”
Mickelson had considered delaying his decision until closer to the tournament’s opening, but opted to give the USGA more time to select an alternate to take his place. Mickelson, who will turn 47 later this month, is surrendering this year’s chance to become only the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam.
Jack Nicklaus, the host of the Memorial, has told the story of how his children’s school would change the dates of commencement exercises to accommodate his tournament. Mickelson laughed at that story and replied, “I just don’t have it in me to do that.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.