Why fathers come first at the US Open this week

Glorious sunshine covered the Erin Hills links like honey on hotcakes yesterday, and doomed the dream of Phil Mickelson to compete at the 117th US Open.

Mickelson needed a weather delay of a few hours in order to attend the high school graduation of his oldest child, Amanda, who was valedictorian of her class, in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and fly privately and make it in time for his opening round tee time.

“It’s strange not having a horse in the race,” said Steve Loy, Mickelson’s long-time agent, watching the telecast from the player locker room. “I’m hurting. So is Phil.”

Mickelson, who celebrates his 47th birthday today, is a six-time runner-up at the US Open and needs only to hoist its trophy to complete the career Grand Slam. But Mickelson is nothing if not consistent.

He has always put family first, dating from Amanda’s birth, when Mickelson wore a beeper (remember those?) all week at the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst and said he’d withdraw from the championship if wife Amy went into labour. Mickelson opted to do what so many parents every year choose to do in order to attend a child’s graduation ceremony: Skip work.

“Sometimes there’s things that are more important than golf,” said World No 1 Dustin Johnson.

Father’s Day came early this week for Johnson as it did for Mickelson. Johnson, who turns 33 on June 22, was a late arrival to the Badger State as he, too, put family before defending his title. He chose to stay with his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, who gave birth to their second son, River, on Monday. Johnson took a very public leave of absence from the PGA Tour in 2014 to deal with personal issues, and his game has thrived since he became a father more than two years ago.

Johnson is the first to admit it’s more than just coincidence. “It just gives you a whole new perspective on things, where before kind of golf was the most important and now my family is the most important,” he said.

“At the end of the day whether I’m having a good day or bad day, when I either see my family or talk to them, whatever, if I was upset or even if I was happy with the way I played, none of that matters.”

The US Open is synonymous with Father’s Day, which always falls on the final round of the championship. There may be no better parent-child storyline this year than Dru Love, and his father, former PGA champion and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. Dru, 23, qualified for his first major championship and asked dad to caddie for him. Why dad of all people? “Is it not obvious?” said Dru.

“He’s played 23 US Opens. He’s seen every single possible thing you can ever see on a golf course, so that was pretty much a no-brainer for me.”

Davis “Dru” Love IV is actually the third generation in the Love family to play in the US Open. (Tyson Alexander is another third-generation player in the field). The late Davis Love Jr, a noted club professional, competed in seven Opens in the 1960s and ’70s.

With Dru’s college career having come to a close, he planned to play the amateur circuit this summer until he chipped in at the final hole of sectional qualifying to squeak into a playoff for the first alternate spot, won it, and on Monday he was in the field and registered as a professional.

Having a 21-time PGA Tour winner on the bag came in handy.

On 17, Dru tugged his drive left and was fortunate to draw a matted lie where fans had been walking. He had 190 yards to the hole downwind. Dear old dad says he doesn’t like to club his son because he hits it so far, but he made an exception and told Dru to grab his pitching wedge.

“I remember saying, ‘What?’” recounted Dru, who opened with a 1-under par 71.

He followed orders and his approach flew 200 yards to the back of the green.

“If he hadn’t been there to tell me to hit pitching wedge, I would have soared it into the grandstands,” Dru said. “So he definitely saved me a few shots today.”

Father knows best. When asked the best advice that his father has given him, Dru said, “Honestly? Stay away from girls. He says they’re all trouble.”

Words that generations of Love men have tried to live by.

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