Phil Mickelson makes no bones about the fact that he puts his family first. So, while it was mildly surprising, Phil watchers were not really shocked that Amy’s husband flew across the country to San Diego just a couple of days ahead of his U.S. Open tee time early Thursday morning outside Philadelphia to attend the eighth-grade graduation of his daughter, Amanda.
Mickelson said in a statement that he had “always planned” to be home to hear Amanda speak at her ceremony but he moved his trip up a few hours because of the soggy weather at Merion Golf Club. But not to worry, Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker (Mickelson’s opening-rounds playing partners), Lefty will meet you, as scheduled, on the 11th tee at 7:11 a.m. ET.
MIckelson will watch his daughter graduate 2nite in SD, leave about 6 pm., fly 4.5 hours, lose 3 hours, arrive @ 1:30 a.m., T off @ 7:11 am.— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) June 12, 2013
The four-time major champion also sought to put his well-wishers’ minds at ease, since he expected to add the finishing touches to his Open tune-up under southern California’s sunny skies.
"I was scheduled to return to San Diego after my 2:30 press conference Tuesday. I came back Monday," Mickelson said in the statement, according to multiple reports. "Since it was raining so much Monday and we didn't know if we'd even be able to play a sloppy course, I came home last night to practice in great weather on my range and greens. I'll be ready to go Thursday."
Phil fans, of course, are ready for anything from their man.
“Phil pulled something off today that only Phil could,” Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte said about Mickelson, who will celebrate his 43rd birthday on Sunday. “This is just Phil being Phil.”
With the graduation rite slated for late Wednesday afternoon, Pacific Time, Mickelson planned to hop back on his private jet for a red-eye flight back to Merion.
It’s certainly not your average PGA Tour’s preferred pre-major prep, but to Mickelson, along with fulfilling the family obligation, it made more sense to leave the soggy weather behind and get some licks in at home. One potential drawback to his plan could be the speed of the greens Chez Lefty compared with those those at muddy Merion.
The putting surfaces at home were running about 14.6 on the Stimpmeter, according to Rosaforte, who noted that the ongoing rain outside Philadelphia was likely to have the official greens stimping quite a bit slower.
Mickelson was at Merion on Monday after clinching a tie for second at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic but downpours limited him to a curtailed practice session. The popular southpaw had played two practice rounds before his stint in Memphis.
Even before his cross-country jaunt, Mickelson, who has never won a U.S. Open but come close (T2) five times, was not among the wise guys’ top picks to win this week. His St. Jude performance -- especially his approach shot on the 18th that he nearly swished in for an eagle -- came on the heels of a missed cut at last month’s Players Championship, though he came in third at the Wells Fargo Championship a week before that.
Like most of the guys in the field this week, Mickelson, who’s ranked 160th in accuracy off the tee, will likely ignore his driver for much of the week on the tight, 6,996-yard Merion track. He did so in Memphis, where he replaced his Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme driver with a Callaway X Hot 3Deep fairway wood, according to PGATour.com’s Jonathan Wall.
If Mickelson can stay out of the penal rough this week, leave what ESPN’s Paul Azinger terms his “crazy-ass gambler” tendencies back in San Diego, and maintain his putting prowess (he’s eighth in the all-important strokes-gained category -- up from 10th last year and 134th in 2011), he could well be in the mix down the stretch.