For Mickelson, being a family man is par for course

Posted: June 14, 2013

SEVEN POUNDS, 4 ounces. That is what Amanda Brynn Mickelson weighed on the day she was born, June 21, 1999. It was the day after the U.S. Open ended, the one at Pinehurst where her father finished second to Payne Stewart, the first of his five second-place finishes at the event.

Phil Mickelson carried a beeper that week and told anyone who would listen that he was leaving if his wife went into labor - in the lead, out of contention, mid-round, mid-hole, whatever. "It's not even a decision," is what Phil said, again and again, even if no one seemed quite ready to believe him.

Phil had a deal with his wife, Amy, that she would page him with a special code if she went into labor. As it turns out, she did not page him on Saturday night, even though she endured some pretty serious contractions, which eventually passed. After Stewart beat Phil on Sunday, he flew home in time for the birth on Monday.

It is a good story. Does Amanda know it?

"A little bit," Phil said.

Just about 14 years later, here we are again. This time, it was Amanda's eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday evening in San Diego. She was one of the students chosen to speak at the ceremony.

For Mickelson, again, it sounded as if it wasn't even a decision.

"She told me that it's fine: 'Stay, it's the U.S. Open, I know how much you care about it,' " Mickelson said. "And I told her that I want to be there. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss her speech. I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent 9 years at that school. And she's worked very hard and she's - I'm very proud of her."

The ceremony began at 6 p.m. in San Diego. Amanda apparently told a Ron Burgundy joke in her speech, according to the proud father. Mickelson was on his private jet at 8, heading back East. He said he slept some on the plane - a Gulfstream isn't exactly like trying to nap in a middle seat in row 28 between two fat guys - and landed in Philadelphia at 3:30 a.m. He napped some more and arrived at Merion at 5:37 and was on the practice range before 6. He teed off from the 11th hole, on schedule, at 7:11 a.m. He played a round that was delayed in the middle by rain and lightning for 3 1/2 hours. He was still doing interviews at nearly 4:30 p.m.

Oh, and he is 3-under-par after a rain-shortened first day at the U.S. Open, one shot behind Luke Donald, who had not finished his first round.

"Yeah, it might be abnormal - but it actually worked out really well," Mickelson said. "I got all my work done on Merion when I was here a week and a half ago. I knew exactly how I wanted to play the golf course, given the conditions, given different wind conditions, clubs I was going to be hitting, where I was going to be and the shots that I was going to have.

"So I didn't feel I needed more time at Merion. What I needed was to get my game sharp, to get my touch sharp. And having a nice practice facility and nice weather for the last couple of days [in San Diego] allowed me to do that. So it worked out great on both ends."

Along the way, there was another nap during the rain delay and some mid-round caffeination - as well as the admission, to his caddie on the ninth tee, that he was hitting the wall. His last hole yesterday was the 10th.

A crowd began to build there more than a half-hour before Mickelson's arrival. They heard a roar and suspected another Mickelson birdie, and the news was confirmed minutes later by the change on a hand-operated scoreboard. Birdie on the ninth; some wall.

They came for all kinds of reasons. People just like the guy - the overall excellence of his career, the lefthandedness, the years of coming close in big spots, even the awkward, almost robotic smile. Early in the round, this group of guys waited for Mickelson to walk by and then traded shouts - "Phil . . . Phil . . . PHIL" - until Mickelson peeked their way and offered one of those smiles as he touched the bill of his visor.

"Hat tip, yes," the one guy said, high-fiving the other. "It had to be done."

And so, hundreds came at the end, as word of his round made its way through the crowd. The 10th does not have a grandstand, and most of the best vantage points of the green are from behind it, standing along a fence that borders Ardmore Avenue, closed to traffic for the tournament.

The prized spots were right up against the fence, where you could peer through bushes and trees to see the nearby green. But plenty of people with no real vantage point still gathered as Mickelson finished his round - three deep behind the fence, five deep, all spilling into the road. It is hard to know how many of them knew either of the Amanda stories as they waited.

One guy was so far back in the crowd that his heels were touching the double-yellow line in the middle of the road. He carried a sleepy, young kid on his shoulders. It had been a long day. They seemed to listen more than look as Phil made par.


On Twitter: @theidlerich


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