Phil Mickelson had a close eye on the weather and a private jet on standby as the 117th US Open got under way at Erin Hills on Thursday.
Mickelson needs to win the US Open, in which he has been runner-up a record six times, to complete the career grand slam but was set to miss the event to attend the high-school graduation of his daughter Amanda, who was born the day after he finished second to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999.
Only a lengthy weather delay would give the 46-year-old a chance of making a last-minute dash from California to Wisconsin, with first alternate Roberto Diaz waiting to take Mickelson’s place alongside Stewart Cink and Steve Stricker in a group due to tee off at 2.20pm local time (8.20pm BST).
If that weather delay did not materialise – and there have been several already this week – this year’s US Open will be the first major championship for 23 years with neither Mickelson nor Tiger Woods in the field.
Mickelson missed the 1994 Masters due to a broken leg suffered in a skiing accident, while Woods was still two years away from turning professional.
“I’m not going to really be prepared for Erin Hills,” Mickelson admitted. “I haven’t gone there, I don’t know the golf course. I’d be showing up there on the first tee for the first time and I would be relying on Bones to steer me around every single shot.”
‘Bones’ is Mickelson’s long-term caddie Jim Mackay, who has been walking the course just in case and feels it would suit his employer’s quest to finally win his national Open.
“The fairways are generous, the greens take a lot of creativity, and the wind is going to blow,” Mackay told Golf.com.
“All of that plays to Phil’s advantage. He’s had to work his way into becoming a player who can handle a lot of wind. Now he’s become as good as anybody. To be honest, if he somehow winds up playing here on Thursday I pray it blows 30 miles an hour.”