For family, Mickelson ducks away from Merion
ARDMORE, Pa. Mother Nature might have thrown Phil Mickelson a curveball en route to Merion Golf Club, but the detour back to California had more to do with his commitment to put family first.
Having long ago decided to be home in Rancho Santa Fe on the Wednesday before the first round of the U.S. Open to attend his daughter Amanda’s graduation from eighth grade, Mickelson got home even earlier thanks to the weather in Greater Philadelphia. The left-hander, having tied for second Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., was onsite Monday at Merion but hit only a few balls. When the heavy rain came and he saw that more precipitation was in the forecast for Tuesday, Mickelson decided to get back to some California sun and family duties.
On the surface, it appears to be a maverick way to prepare for the season’s second major. But having played in 22 U.S. Opens and being polished enough to have earned more U.S. Open runner-up finishes than anyone else (five), Mickelson certainly would have to be worthy of the benefit of the doubt. He toured Merion for two days last week before heading to Memphis, and it’s questionable as to how much more he would have been helped by seeing it in soft, muddy, saturated conditions Monday and Tuesday.
In similar conditions – meaning, soft and soggy – Mickelson finished second to Tiger Woods in 2002 and second to Lucas Glover in 2009, both times at Bethpage. (His other seconds were at Pinehurst in 1999, Shinnecock in 2004 and Winged Foot in 2006.) Bethpage might have the length that Merion is missing, but the point is, with 82 major championships under his belt, Mickelson has, as they say, a track record.
It’s hard to believe he won’t be fine for his 7:22 a.m. tee time Thursday, even if he does fly back from California on Wednesday evening.
Mickelson will be paired with Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker off the 11th tee Thursday, and one thought probably will take priority: Get a better start than he has had in each of the past three U.S. Opens. Mickelson's first rounds have been 76 last year at The Olympic Club (finishing T-65), 74 in 2011 at Congressional (finishing T-54) and 75 in 2010 at Pebble Beach (finishing T-4).