By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
ERIN, Wis. (AP) — Phil Mickelson withdrew from the U.S. Open a little more than an hour after the sun climbed over Erin Hills, realizing there was no chance to get from his daughter’s high school graduation in California and make his Thursday afternoon tee time.
This is the first time Mickelson has missed the U.S. Open since he failed to qualify in 1993.
Roberto Diaz of Mexico, the next alternate in line, took his place and at least was allowed to get some rest. Diaz had to be at Erin Hills for the 6:45 a.m. start and wait until Mickelson’s tee time at 2:20 p.m. in case anyone else had pulled out with injury.
Mickelson had been holding out hope that with the potential of storms over Wisconsin, there might be a long enough delay that he could still make his tee time. His daughter, Amanda, is the class president at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, California, and was to give the commencement speech.
The graduation starts at noon Wisconsin time. Mickelson figured he would need at least a four-hour delay at Erin Hills, where the course has been closed twice in the last three days because of thunderstorms.
Instead, the U.S. Open began under sunshine and with practically no threat of bad weather all day.
Jordan Niebrugge, one of two Wisconsin players in the field at Erin Hills, hit the opening tee shot in Wisconsin’s first U.S. Open.
Mickelson holds the U.S. Open record with six runner-up finishes, and it’s the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam.
“It’s a tournament that I want to win the most,” Mickelson said two weeks ago when he first revealed the conflict. “The only way to win is if you play and have a chance. But this is one of those moments where you look back on life and you just don’t want to miss it. I’ll be really glad that I was there and present.”
This is the same daughter who nearly caused Mickelson to withdraw from the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. He carried a beeper with him and pledged to leave in the middle of the tournament even if he were leading. Payne Stewart made a 15-foot par putt on the last hole to beat Mickelson by one shot.
Amanda was born the next day.
The last time Mickelson was runner-up at the U.S. Open was in Merion in 2013, the week Amanda graduated from the eighth grade. Mickelson attended that ceremony, too, though this was on a Wednesday. He flew overnight to Philadelphia, arrived at 4 a.m. and took a quick nap before his 7:11 a.m. tee time. He took the 54-hole lead that week until Justin Rose surged past him on the back nine.
Mickelson, who celebrates his 47th birthday on Friday, believes he will have more chances at that elusive U.S. Open trophy, and the next few years are favorable. The U.S. Open will be played next year at Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson was in position to win in 1995 and 2004. Then it’s Pebble Beach in 2019, and Winged Foot in 2020. Winged Foot is where he made a double bogey on the final hole to lose by one.
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