I’m a casual golf fan, but I have always liked Phil Mickelson. I like “Lefty,” as he is affectionately known, because he is an extreme risk taker and plays all out on almost every hole. That’s why I was initially disappointed to learn he had pulled out from the U.S. Open. But when I found out his reason for withdrawing, it made me an even bigger fan.
Lefty has officially withdrawn from the event at Erin Hills, and it marks the first time since 1993 he will miss this tournament. He had played in 23 consecutive U.S. Opens.
Mickelson is attending his daughter Amanda’s graduation in California. He sent his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay to Erin Hills to scout the place early in the week and was hoping for a lengthy rain delay Thursday morning so he could make a cross-country flight for his afternoon tee time. Despite some overnight showers, there is no rain in sight.
I don’t typically think of athletes as role models because there is no observable correlation between athletic gifts and a great moral sense, but Phil Mickelson putting his family first in this situation shows the type of man he is.
Mickelson skipped perhaps his last chance at winning the career Grand Slam. Mickelson, who is 47, has won the PGA Championship, the British Open, and the Masters, but the U.S. Open has been stubborn for him — he has finished second place six separate times. A win this weekend was would have been a surefire way for Mickelson to achieve golf immortality.
And yet, Mickelson chose family over career. He chose a special moment for his daughter over a potential special moment for himself. The decision to order his life in the most important way — family first — to me makes him even more impressive.
Good for you, Phil. Your priorities are in the right place.
Photo credit: Corn Farmer via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0