Liguori: Big Names Put Family First As U.S. Open Begins

Defending Champ Johnson, Open-Starved Mickelson, And Again-Focused Day Know Where Their Priorities Are

By Ann Liguori
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ERIN, Wis. (WFAN) — Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day are a few of the top names who put family first at the start of the U.S. Open.

Juggling their personal lives and making family their top priority can’t be easy, but it’s certainly admirable the way they’ve handled it.

Johnson, the defending champ, skipped his Monday practice round at Erin Hills to be with his fiancée Paulina Gretzky, who underwent a scheduled C-section to deliver the couple’s second son, River Jones Johnson.

The top-ranked player in the world arrived on Tuesday afternoon and practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday. He played two practice rounds at Erin Hills about a week and a half ago after missing the cut at The Memorial.

“I didn’t feel like I was behind the eight-ball at all because I got to prepare 10 days ago or so,” Johnson said on Wednesday.

Johnson will attempt to become the seventh player in history to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles, the first since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.

The 32-year-old seems ready to focus on the task at hand. Asked how he can handle the range of emotions after becoming a father for the second time, he said, “You just do it. … It helps that Paulina and my son, they’re at home now. She’s a lot more comfortable and everybody is healthy. Obviously, I don’t have to worry about them. But now I’ve got to play golf. This is why I’m here. I’m here to play golf. I’m here to compete. So that’s what my job is this week.”

Johnson also said he likes the course.

“All U.S. Opens, there’s a premium on hitting the fairways. You’ve got to drive it in the fairways. Some of them are really wide. But they don’t play quite as wide as they look,” he said.

MORELiguori: ‘Rough’ U.S. Open Challenges Await Golf’s Best At Erin Hills

He teed-off on Thursday at 8.35 a.m. local time and played with 2015 U.S. Open champ Jordan Spieth and 2014 winner Martin Kaymer.

Phil Mickelson -- PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson watches his shot during a practice round prior to the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 26, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson has always put his family first. In 1999 at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, when Payne Stewart out-dueled him for the title, Phil carried a beeper with him and was prepared to bolt if his wife, Amy, went into labor. Eighteen years later, his daughter, Amanda, was set to graduate from high school on Thursday morning in Carlsbad, California.

Mickelson officially withdrew from the U.S. Open on Thursday morning so that he could attend the graduation, where his daughter was scheduled to speak, rather than stick around and attempt to win the only major title that has eluded him.

jason day waves barclays 2015 Liguori: Big Names Put Family First As U.S. Open Begins

Jason Day (Photo: Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Jason Day took time off in March right before the Masters to fly his mom, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer, from Australia to Ohio, where he resides, to help in her care. At the time, Day withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Match Play but played in The Masters, where he finished tied for 22nd. He seems to have his usual focus back as he attempts this week to win his first U.S. Open title.

Day was to start Thursday at 2:09 p.m. local time and play with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, who are both looking for their second U.S. Open trophies.

On Tuesday, Day said that his mother is “now much better and she’s healing. There’s still some things that pop up every now and then with her health, but my mind is in a better place. Everything I have in my life is due to her decisions back then giving me the opportunities now.”

As the 117th U.S. Open gets underway Thursday, the focus returns to keeping the ball in the fairways and making putts. But it’s great to see how some of the top players in the game put family first.

“Sometimes there’s things that are more important than golf, and family is definitely more important,” Johnson said.

Please flow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori

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