If Phil Mickelson feels good about it, then good for him.
But that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of waxing poetic about his (pending) decision to skip the US Open in favor of attending his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation. If not for the fact that his daughter is class president, valedictorian, and giving the commencement address… I’d call the decision stupid, but a stupid one that is wholly his to make.
And for this, I would get blasted. How DARE I…. you and others would huff! (And some already have, due to a few preliminary comments I have made on the radio about the subject).
I offer this as only my opinion. A high school graduation is a mere ceremony. It is not the actual “accomplishment” of graduating from high school, which I consider a very low bar in terms of life achievements. It’s just a gathering and a party. It’s nice. It’s lovely. Barring any significant conflict on your schedule, family members should attend.
The fact that Amanda is speaking at such an event, does raise the bar, I’ll admit. Tough call, this one. Hard to believe this conflict wasn’t somehow ironed out months ago… but… whatever. I’m watching the US Open whether Phil is there, or not.
At the same time, attending a graduation does not certify you as a “good father.” If only it were that easy. Many tour pros do not have the luxury Phil does. They don’t have career earnings and endorsements north of $250 million. They don’t even have good insider stock tips. (What? Oh, so I’m the bad guy?) Many tour pros who qualify for a prestigious tournament like the US Open, understand the sacrifice they will have to make to play in it, and so they make a hard adult decision.
Jason Gay writes the following for the Wall Street Journal in defense of Phil’s choice.
I think we’re wising up, I really do. Even in sports, where perspectives are always a little askew and caveman-like. Mickelson’s fellow golf pro Hunter Mahan walked away from the Canadian Open—with the lead—when his wife Kandi went into labor in 2013, and his move was widely lauded. You can also see progress in team sports. Yes, there are still dinosaurs among us who gnash and growl that a player who leaves to attend a childbirth is letting down the club, teammates, fans. (Usually, it seems, these dinosaurs have shows on sports radio.)
In fact, Amanda herself has apparently told papa Phil that it’s perfectly okay for him to miss it. Phil has apparently politely declined.
So does that make Amanda herself, a so-called “dinosaur?”
It’s easy to say “it’s only sports.” But professional sports are important – hence the term: “profession.” Not unlike doctors who get called into the ER, lawyers who dance to the schedule of the courts, salesman who are asked to fly across the globe on a moments notice to close a big account, sometimes you just don’t get to be there. And there is no shame in that. These are the livelihoods and the rock upon which fathers build their families. How many special events – birthdays, proms, graduations, school plays, awards nights – has the team trainer for the Nashville Predators missed over the years?
If a high school graduation is more important than the US Open, then is dropping Amanda off at college more important than the FedEx Cup Championship? (Answer: “probably.” Phil once skipped the Tour Championship to go trick-or-treating with his kids!) What about the Ryder Cup? If Phil is captain of the team someday, and her daughter drops out of college in emotional despair because her boyfriend dumped her, does he just say “sorry fellas, something came up at home?”
Obviously, there is no chart for this. And making this decision much more simple is the fact that Mickelson has no obligation to anybody than himself. I would dare say that LeBron James pulling this move before Game 7 of the NBA Finals, would not generate nearly as much sympathetic column inches from evolved dinosaurs like Mr. Gay.
I remember the Presidents Cup that ended in a tie in 2003 in South Africa. Ernie Els and Tiger Woods exchanged gut-check 10 footers in a tied singles match, as sunlight ran out on Sunday. Finally, unable to see, Captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player faced a tough call. Do you re-assemble everybody in the morning to finish properly in daylight?
I would have. But Tour players being the pampered type, too many of them had jets warming up on the tarmac. Even just bringing Tiger and Ernie back for one hole was problematic according to reports after the fact, that Tiger had already planned to escape with his girlfriend Elin Nordegren to a secluded South African resort to propose to her on Monday.
So they called it a tie. Which was gutless and incomplete. I know it’s just an exhibition, but many golf fans like myself, had invested time and interest in the actual outcome, only to get a bait and switch at the end. Of course who, at the time, could fault Tiger from not wanting to delay such a special moment in his life, right?
Well, we know how that turned out.
Chances are, Phil wasn’t going to win next week at Erin Hills, no matter how close he keeps coming to the career Grand Slam. He might not be even a fan of the layout. So good for him. I would never do it, but that’s just me: a heartless bad-dad “dinosaur” who understands that life is full of compromises and conflicts.
But spare me the flowing prose about Phil the Phather of the Year – or decade! We don’t really know this guy, or any of these guys we root for. There’s going to be 156 other golfers next week, and I’m guessing a few of them are going to missing some event back home they would rather be at. Just because they chose to golf, doesn’t make them monsters, the same as Phil backing out doesn’t make him a saint.