Mickelson should do the honourable thing and pull out

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson is being a bit selfish by not forfeiting his US Open spot.

Phil Mickelson has been praised as a ‘model father’ since he announced that he would miss the US Open – the only major he has never won – in favour of attending his daughter’s high-school graduation, but he really doesn’t deserve all the plaudits.

That’s because in reality Phil has not entirely given up hope. Mickelson has yet to withdraw from the tournament officially and still hopes to pull off a record-breaking cross-country dash in his private plane in time for his Thursday afternoon tee time.

Here are the facts: With the graduation ceremony set to begin in California at 10am and Mickelson scheduled to tee off at 2.20pm more than 2,000 miles (or a roughly four-hour flight) away in Wisconsin, the 46-year old is relying on the chance of a lengthy weather delay in order to make it. He has even sent his caddie Jim MacKay to Erin Hills to scout the course.

And while fans of ‘Lefty’ and TV viewers dreaming of a ‘Phil fairy-story’ may be excited about the prospect of Mickelson winning the elusive title after a mad trans-America rush, spare a thought for the guy who has effectively been left in limbo by Mickelson’s selfish desire to cling on to his US Open dream.

Roberto Diaz, a 30-year old Mexican golfer, is first alternate at the tournament and will stand in if any pro should pull out through injury, or as in Mickelson’s case, be unable to make it.

That will mean Diaz faces a very early start on Thursday to be ready for when the first group tee off at 6.45am, while he faces a lengthy, almost 8-hour wait should he finally get the go-ahead to fill in for Phil.

In the meantime, he’s had to field questions from journalists and remain gracious while he pretends that he is still dreaming of achieving his childhood dream of playing in the US Open, when in all likelihood he knows that it will be him on the tee come Thursday afternoon.

“I have to have my mindset as if he’s playing,” Diaz told the New York Post. “I’m not counting on him not being in the field. I’m counting on him to be here.”

USGA officials have predictably been accommodating to one of the tour’s most likeable and popular stars, and even handed Mickelson one of the latest start times available, while saying that he “doesn’t have to notify us really until the last minute”, but even that looks extremely unlikely to play out. So in the meantime Mickelson and his fans are left clinging to the ever decreasing chance of foul weather coming to his aid.

This is unfair. No player is bigger than the tournament, and in order to uphold the integrity of the competition, the USGA should have demanded that Mickelson pull out by now instead of actually trying to help him continue with this farce.

Because while Mickelson’s original intention to sacrifice his shot at golfing immortality was honourable, his subsequent refusal to fully relinquish his spot and the USGA’s hopes of trying to ensure as many big names as possible make it to the tournament, are most definitely not.

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