Sport Golf

Friday 24 November 2017

How the weather and a private jet will play a role in potential Grand Slam for family man Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson

Phil Casey

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.

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."

Play was scheduled to get under way at 6:45am local time with the last three champions, Martin Kaymer, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson teeing off at 8:35am.

Johnson only arrived at Erin Hills on Tuesday afternoon after fiancee Paulina Gretzky gave birth to the couple's second son - named River Jones Johnson - on Monday, but the world number one is targeting the first successful title defence since Curtis Strange in 1989.

''It's been very fun the last couple of days, obviously having a new son on Monday was awesome,'' Johnson said. ''Everybody's healthy so that's good.

''It actually worked out pretty well that I missed the cut at Memorial, even though I didn't want to. I came up here and got to practice for two days.

''Even though I came in late I didn't feel like I was behind the 8-ball at all because I got to prepare 10 days ago or so."

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