DUBLIN, Ohio – Phil Mickelson intends to skip the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin in order to attend his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California.
Mickelson first informed The New York Times of his decision before teeing off in the third round of the Memorial on Saturday. After closing out an even-par 72, he confirmed that decision.
The five-time major winner has finished runner-up at the year's second major a record six times. The U.S. Open is the lone major keeping the soon-to-be 47-year-old from the career Grand Slam.
"I mean obviously it's the tournament I want to win the most," he said. "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."
Amanda, who will attend Brown University in the fall, is the class president and commencement speaker. She is the oldest of the three Mickelson children. The Pacific Ridge School graduation is scheduled for 10 a.m. PT on Thursday, June 15, square in the middle of the Open's first round.
"So there's really just no way to make it, no matter what the tee time is," Mickelson said.
It is important to note that Mickelson has not officially withdrawn. He has up until his tee time to actually do so. As such, he intends to wait in order to allow himself the opportunity to play should some “unforeseen circumstance,” like a first-round weather washout, allow him to make it from California to Wisconsin in time.
Mickelson chose to inform USGA executive director Mike Davis of his situation "a couple days ago" so that an alternate can properly prepare for the event and the USGA can plan its first- and second-round groupings accordingly.
“We applaud and appreciate the fact that he is being pro-active so that the USGA can make any appropriate adjustments should he not be able to play,” Davis said in a statement. “We certainly understand and support that Phil’s family commitments are of paramount importance and hope that the timing will work in his favor.”
Mickelson first missed out on the U.S. Open title in 1999 when he was bested by Payne Stewart on the final green at Pinehurst. With his wife Amy set to give birth, Mickelson decided to play the final round knowing he might need to withdraw. After Stewart holed his par putt to win, he went over to Mickelson, put his hands on his face and told him, “You’re going to be a father.”
"I go back and every year at the U.S. Open, I think about that '99 Open," Mickelson said Saturday. "The birth of your child, any child, but especially your first child, is the most emotional event you can ever experience and share together with your wife.
"And I always think about that at the U.S. Open. I think about Payne Stewart, and I can't believe how quickly time has gone by. Here she is, turing 18 and moving off to college and I'm so proud of her. She's a very special person. I'm excited to see what she has to say at her commencement."
Mickelson first became aware of the potential conflict six months ago and hoped that "maybe something will change, maybe something will change, but nothing is really changing. So here we are." At no point, Mickelson said, did he contemplate missing the ceremony or asking the school to reschedule.
Mickelson finished second at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 1999, Bethpage Black in 2002, Shinnecock Hills in 2004, Winged Foot in 2006, Bethpage Black again in 2010 and, most recently, at Merion in 2013.
After coming up short to Justin Rose at Merion, Mickelson rebounded a month later to win the third leg of the career Grand Slam at The Open Championship at Muirfield, but he has not won an event since and remains a U.S. Open victory away from the Grand Slam.
"I'll be able to play the next two years solidly before Sofia gets to graduate, hopefully," he said, prompting laughter. "Hopefully that one won't conflict. Again, you never know. Maybe something freaky will happen. You just never know."