Phil Mickelson is proof that competing at the summit of professional sport need not necessarily come at the expense of family values.
He has also already made a mockery of the importance of textbook pre-tournament routine.
For a US Open already unorthodox Mickelson's build-up seemed appropriate. The 42-year-old, a four-times major winner, then played himself firmly into Merion contention with an opening round of 67, three under par.
Mickelson supplied the first uplifting story of this major weekend. By the time he stepped from his final green he had been installed by bookmakers as the favourite for the tournament. "It was a good start," he said, with more than a hint of understatement. Later, as a second storm siren of the day delayed play with a host of players still in the early throes of their first round, Mickelson was rightly in relaxation mode. He had earned a Friday lie-in.
In isolation, given the weather disruption which plagued day one and made the rough at this venue even more treacherous, a 67 would rank as impressive. In Mickelson's case he is due extra praise.
He had flown home to San Diego from Pennsylvania on Monday night after the rain deluge which interrupted practice that day. Not only did the American opt to continue his preparations for the year's second major in the comfort of his own facilities – his practice putting green has a stimpmeter reading of 14 – but he attended the eighth-grade graduation of his daughter, Amanda, on Wednesday.
Thereafter? Mickelson departed San Diego at 11.15pm local time and arrived in Pennsylvania at 4.30am. He therefore made a journey of 2,700 miles and was in position, right on time, for his 7.11am first-round start. "This is not out of the ordinary," Mickelson said. "I do it six, maybe 10 times a year where I fly east red eye, play an outing and come home."
The round itself was textbook Mickelson. There were miraculous recovery shots where less capable players would have recorded a score significantly over par. Mickelson had just a solitary blemish – a bogey five on the 11th. A late highlight was a 20ft birdie putt, sunk on the 237-yard, par-three 9th, Mickelson's 17th. Tiredness? Not a glimpse of the stuff.
That said, Mickelson is one of only 11 players in the field to have previously played competitively at Merion. He featured in the 1989 United States Amateur Championship. The Californian also visited last week, when meaningful plotting and practice time were undertaken.
"I didn't feel I needed more time at Merion, what I needed was to get my game sharp, to get my touch sharp," he said. "And having a nice practice facility and nice weather for the last couple of days allowed me to do that."
Mickelson has previous for putting family first. At the 1999 US Open he wore a bleep device during competition with his wife Amy due to go into labour. Mickelson finished second in that tournament – he has done that on five occasions in the US Open, a tournament record – to the late Payne Stewart.
Mickelson's disappointment at that outcome was offset by two matters: the insistence of Stewart that he would win a major, which turned out to be correct, and the birth of Amanda on the day after the event finished.
Mickelson's prominence, and the backdrop to it, at least offered an endearing element to a disrupted Thursday at Merion which threatened to overshadow the return of the US Open to a famous old venue.
The morning storm which was forecast to hit this tight, hazardous parkland course duly obliged and suspended play from 8.36am for three and a half hours. When the tournament got under way again, afternoon players suffered a delay of three hours and 34 minutes. Play was halted again, at 10 past six, for 45 minutes.
Owing to the delay, the event's marquee group of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott were left playing a game of catch-up which was due to continue into the second morning. Woods, who seemed to sustain an injury to his left hand or wrist when playing from rough on the 1st, may be grateful for that. McIlroy, conversely, was enjoying benign and soft course conditions.
Ian Poulter had looked capable of joining Mickelson in a strong first-round position but the Englishman stumbled badly after going three under inside five holes. He closed at one over. "You need to respect this golf course. It's brutal," Poulter said. Lee Westwood fared better at maintaining a strong start and reached the turn at two under.
Among those to struggle more seriously were Keegan Bradley, a former major champion who had represented the United States at Merion at amateur level. Bradley has work to do just to be around for the closing 36 holes, having slumped to a 77.
But for Mickelson, it could be suggested those who toiled needed to appreciate the value of standard preparation. How he merited his proper night's rest.
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