Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sorry Phil, stop being selfish - either play or pull out

Jim Mackay, caddy for Phil Mickelson, walks the course alone yesterday. Photo: Getty
Jim Mackay, caddy for Phil Mickelson, walks the course alone yesterday. Photo: Getty

James Corrigan

In prioritising his daughter's high-school ceremony above a shot at golf immortality, Phil Mickelson has already been hailed as "Father of the Century". Alas, it is not as blessedly simple as all this Phil worship.

Because the great family man has not quite let go of his ambition to win the 117th US Open and, in that sense, he is being selfish. In short, Mickelson wants it both ways: he wants to have his graduation cake and eat it.

Of course, it would be a wonderful story if Mickelson's cunning plan worked out and if Mother Nature complied to open the heavens in the morning of the first round, to effect the four-hour time delay he requires to have a chance of teeing it up at Erin Hills.

And if he was then to break his US Open curse and, after six runner-up finishes, finally win the title he craves most, then even Jack Nicklaus' fairytale resurrection at the 1986 Masters would be overshadowed.

Yet, a few factors would still not sit right. The first is that he should have withdrawn two weeks ago when he announced his intention to attend Amanda's graduation in California. Because a golfer should give as much time as possible to the player filling their place.

Instead, he has left Roberto Diaz in a wretched kind of limbo. Mickelson's supporters will say that in every Major there is a reserve waiting by the first tee for a fellow pro to pull out. Yet this is different. Everybody knows here that Diaz is almost certain to play and so complete a childhood dream.

Diaz will be required to be ready to go from 6.45am, and that is not ideal preparation. Yet the rules demand that Diaz's long wait cannot be avoided, because his name is not officially on the starting sheet. Mickelson's is and it should not be.

Mickelson has already told the world that he has chosen to be elsewhere when he is due to start and boy, has he been given the credit for his decision.

"It was not a hard decision to make," he said. So why not make it? You know, officially?

It is not like praying, on the off chance, for an injury to heal in time.

It is praying for disruption. Fans should not be awaiting the first day of the US Open hoping for thunder and lightning and for play effectively be wiped out for the day.

Hey, don't worry that people's days will be ruined, because Phil will be here, right?

Well, no, actually, because a major is bigger than one player. For the integrity of the competition, the USGA should have demanded that Mickelson scratch his name.

Instead, the governing body actually tried to assist in the farce.

The officials will deny they handed Mickelson as late a tee-time as they could, but few would believe them.

There is not a bigger misnomer in all of sport than golf's 'draw'. The TV companies and the crowd want the big names to be in the slots where most can witness their talents, but this has taken it too far. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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