Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Mickelson making the easy choice

If you or I had a chance to play in the U.S. Open, first thing we'd know is that somebody made a horrible mistake. Better issue hard hats to everyone in the gallery.

Second, we just might skip our daughter’s high school graduation for the chance to play at Erin Hills next week. It would be, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We could run for father of the year in 2018. And somebody would video the commencement, right?

We’re not Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, of course, has announced he will forgo the chance to finish second in another Open next week to attend daughter Amanda’s graduation in California. Giving the commencement address Thursday at 10 a.m. in the west, on what would be the first round of the Open, Amanda is one of those high-achieving kids who no doubt will hit her speech 300 yards down the middle.

Since his announcement – Mickelson has not officially withdrawn as of this writing – there have been some amusing reactions.

Someone started an online petition to get the Pacific Ridge School to move its graduation up a day to allow Mickelson to swoop in on his private jet and get back to Wisconsin for the first round. It certainly was thoughtless of officials not to plan the school year around the PGA Tour schedule. What, they couldn’t graduate during the FedEx St. Jude Classic? Or better yet, move it back or month or so to the week of the John Deere?

Alas, something tells me that other parents who send their kids to the San Diego-area private school – graduating class of 105 – may have important places to be, too. They just may have blocked off some time Thursday morning between mergers to be at their kids’ ceremony. Wouldn’t be right to complicate their lives to accommodate a tee time.

New hope arose when the first-round tee times were released. Mickelson got a late one – 2:20 p.m. Central time. People with a working calculator and a knowledge of tail winds went to work. If there was any kind of significant weather delay, they calculated, it would be possible for Phil to catch the graduation and still jet back for a later tee time. Early forecast: Only a slight chance of rain and more Open heartbreak for Mickelson.

“Maybe I’ll fly up and be on Golf Channel,” he joked to Golf Digest. “I can tell everybody how to finish second.” That he has done a record six times in the single event that has kept him from a career grand slam.

To those who might be having trouble grasping this choice, Mickelson keeps reminding them, “It wasn’t a hard decision at all.”

And, really, it shouldn’t have been. He has played in 26 Opens (he rushed back from one for Amanda’s birth). He turns 47 next Friday, well past the age of logically contending (he missed the cut last year). He has made more money than he can possibly squander. Has more fame than any golfer not named Tiger. There would be nothing awaiting him in Wisconsin more important than what is happening on that graduation stage.

Fathers miss some fun things to be at their kids’ stuff. That’s one of the requirements of the job. Skipping a major golf tournament just generates a little more news than the other routine inconveniences of good parenting.

Mickelson has gotten some of the best pub of his life for making a choice that really anyone in his position should make.

It might be a bit much to paint his as a heroic decision. But a polite golf clap for Mickelson is in order here for prioritizing the special people in his life over a game and reinforcing the importance of family (if he does indeed miss the Open). That’s never a bad lesson.

And if he really can’t make his Open appointment next week, Mickelson better get breakfast in bed and one great card to hang on the refrigerator this Father’s Day.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.