Jun 14, 2013
ARDMORE, Pa. -- When Phil Mickelson's daughter Amanda addressed her eighth-grade class during her graduation ceremony on Wednesday -- a speech Phil flew back from Philadelphia to San Diego to hear -- she quoted not Abraham Lincoln, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Bobby Jones.
No, her father revealed after his opening-round, no-signs-of-jet-lag 67 at the 2013 U.S. Open on Thursday, she instead chose the words of the newscasting, flute-playing philosopher made famous by Will Ferrell in the 2004 comedy Anchorman.
“In the words of Ron Burgundy,” Amanda told her classmates and family, “We're kind of a big deal.”
The line killed, Phil said, because Amanda wasn’t bragging, she was simply paying homage to all the great things her classmates had accomplished -- with a nod to one of San Diego's most beloved fictional characters.
That Phil witnessed the moment was a testament to both his family values and the wonders of aviation. The graduation began at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (yes, 9 p.m. on the East Coast), less than 12 hours before his 7:11 a.m. tee time on Merion Golf Club's East Course. But Mickelson wanted to be there, and that was that.
He flew back to San Diego Tuesday afternoon, attended the graduation Wednesday evening, then hopped his Gulfstream back to Philly later that night, touching down about 3:30 a.m. Thursday. Sleep? Not much. Couple hours' tops on the plane, Lefty said, and another hour on the ground.
"I do this about six, 10 times a year, where I fly back east [on a] red-eye, play some outing and then come home," Mickelson said. "So it's not out of the ordinary."
Not out of the ordinary? It's one thing to fly overnight for hits-and-giggles with some Rolex bigwigs, but quite another to do so on the eve of golf's most grueling test. "Yeah, it might be abnormal," Mickleson said when pushed, admitting he had never taken an overnighter on the night before a tournament, "but it actually worked out really well."
Mickelson's weather-delayed, four-birdie 67 was his best opening round at a U.S. Open since 1999, and he played the course exactly as a U.S. Open setup needs to be played, hitting 11 fairways and 14 greens. His round began with a bogey at the par-4 11th, his first hole of the day, but he countered with birdies at the short par-3 13th , the par-4 1st, the par-4 7th and the 236-yard par-3 9th, where after a quick pep talk from his caddie, Jim (Bones) Mackay, Mickelson drained an uphill left-to-righter from 30 feet.
"I told Bones on 9 tee box that I kind of hit a wall," said Mickleson, who caught a short nap during the three-and-half-hour weather delay that interrupted play Thursday morning. "And he said, 'Well, let's just take a little mental break as we walk down there, and I ended up making the putt.'"
Roars ensued, as they did just about anywhere Mickelson tread. At the slippery, sloping par-4 5th, he hit an approach that stopped above the hole before trickling within 12 feet. "All day, Phil!" a fan bellowed. "All day!"
"Your town, Philip! Your town!" another cried.
Along the 6th fairway, a spectator congratulated Mickelson on his daughter's graduation, to which Lefty responded with his trademark SGTU (shy grin, thumbs up).