Golf’s U.S. Open begins today outside Philadelphia…Phil Mickelson has already won..
TEE TIME FOR GOLF’S “FATHER OF THE YEAR”
The first big story of golf’s 113th U.S. Open has been written. Phil Mickelson is on the course at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia. He made his 7:11 tee time. He went on to bogey his first hole of the Open, but this is one case of just being there being a major accomplishment. It’s not an uncommon story for Phil, who, for years, has given the sports world a much needed moral compass, demonstrating that there are more important things in life than competition, even if it is the national championship that’s at stake. Phil’s arrival at Merion, ten miles from Philadelphia, was no mean feat. He didn’t arrive at the Philadelphia airport until shortly before 5:00 AM after flying all night from San Diego. Granted, he was flying on a private jet with a bed but he also had to deal with the prospects of air traffic back ups, with a major storm making it’s way across the midwest, taking dead aim at Philly. Disqualification from the U.S. Open was very much among the considerations. For Phil, it was a chance worth taking. He had more important matters to deal with, matters that made even the U.S. Open just another golf tournament. His fourteen year old daughter, Amanda, graduated from grammar school last night and she was scheduled to give a graduation address. There was never any question that Phil would be there. It’s what golf fans have always known about Phil. Family first, golf, even the majors, tucked away somewhere in the back seat. In 1999 Phil battled Payne Stewart right to the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He carried a little extra baggage with him. A beeper. His wife, Amy, was pregnant with Amanda and Phil made it clear to tournament officials, if Amy went into labor and the beeper went off, even if he was in the lead, he was gone. The alarm never sounded, Amanda was born the next day, Phil got there in plenty of time. He finished as the U.S. Open runner up for one of a record five times. As he congratulated Stewart on the 18th green, the newly crowned U.S. Open champion, already a father himself, put his arm around Phil’s shoulder and told him, “Winning a major will come, nothing will be more important or gratifying in your life than fatherhood.” The late great Payne Stewart was right, on both counts. The majors came for Phil, who embraced his role as a family man more tightly that any athlete of his caliber. He walked away from tournaments and let his game sit idle while he stood side by side with Amy during her battle with breast cancer. The grateful tears that visibly fell from his eyes as he embraced her after winning his second Masters Championship weren’t the only tears being shed behind the 18th green at Augusta National that day, as an emotional gallery embraced them both. Phil is plus one through two holes at Merion but he’s already had a glorious moment at the U.S. Open, when the gallery at the first tee greeted his arrival with a rousing “Father of the Year” ovation. Missing the cut at the U.S. Open, under the circumstances, wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. After all, it would mean he could be home on Sunday, which, to Phil Mickelson, is a day with a very special meaning. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.