ERIN, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Mexican Roberto Diaz did not want to get his hopes up of playing in the U.S. Open so the alternate convinced himself that Phil Mickelson was going to show up at Erin Hills to take his place on the tee box right up until early Thursday morning.
When told the five-times major winner, who was attending his daughter’s high school graduation, had officially withdrawn, Diaz was thrust into his first U.S. Open and more than held his own, a birdie at the last capping a respectable even-par 72.
Mickelson’s only chance of making his tee time was bad weather but when it became clear there would be no delays the PGA Tour confirmed his absence.
“I thought Phil was going to come,” Diaz said of Mickelson, who has been runner-up a record six times in the U.S. Open. “I always did. I think he was going to somehow pull it off,” the 30-year-old Web.com Tour player told reporters.
”I didn’t want to put my hopes up and then see my hopes go down.
”I never thought I was going to play. I thought I had zero chance.
“I prepared the whole week to play. But I was prepared not to play.”
Clear skies on Thursday finally scuttled Mickelson’s hope of making the trip to Erin Hills to continue his quest for the major title he needs to complete a career grand slam.
“With no rain in today’s forecast Phil Mickelson has officially withdrawn from the 117th U.S. Open,” the PGA Tour said on their Twitter page.
Diaz showed up at Erin Hills at 6:15 a.m. to await word on his playing prospects. After getting the good news, he returned to his hotel for a nap before going back to the course for his 2:20 p.m. tee time.
Diaz said he received a lot of attention on the course when he set off with Wisconsin favourite Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink.
“Everybody out there calls me Phil,” said Diaz, who registered a runner-up finish and a tie for third on the Web.com Tour this season. “I thought it was funny.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford