Everyone in golf is waiting to see if Phil Mickelson will tee off Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
Few, if any, are awaiting the decision with more eagerness than former Myrtle Beach resident Roberto Diaz. If Mickelson withdraws, Diaz is in the field at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
Diaz is the next alternate in line if any exempt player withdraws.
Diaz, who lived in Myrtle Beach for seven years through 2016 and still represents the Greg Norman Champions Academy at Barefoot Resort, is the first alternate from the sectional at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
He lost out on the final U.S. Open spot from Canoe Brook in a playoff with Matthew Campbell after both shot 7-under 135s. There were five spots available out of 80 players.
The alternate pecking order is determined by Jeff Hall, the USGA’s Managing Director of Rules and Open Championships, who ranks the 12 sectional qualifying sites – 10 domestic and two international – by strength of field.
Canoe Brook was deemed to have the seventh-strongest field, and the first alternates from the top six sites have already earned entry, including former Little River resident Tyler Light, an Ohio native.
Mickelson said a couple weeks ago that he was going to withdraw from the U.S. Open to attend his daughter’s high school graduation and commencement speech in Carlsbad, Calif.
The six-time U.S. Open runner-up needs the tournament to complete the career grand slam.
The USGA has given Mickelson an outside chance to make his tee time by giving him the third-to-last time Thursday at 2:20 p.m. Central Daylight Time, which is the equivalent of 12:20 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Amanda Mickelson’s commencement begins at 10 a.m. Pacific.
Mickelson estimated Sunday he would need a four-hour delay or suspension of play prior to his time in order to tee off.
According to The Weather Channel, there is a 60 percent chance of morning thunderstorms on Thursday.
Diaz, who is 11th on the Web.com Tour money list, will be fully prepared for the tournament if he gets in. He was at Erin Hills on Monday playing a practice round and using the practice facilities. This is the first year the USGA has allowed alternates to play practice rounds. In recent years they were allowed to use the practice facilities and only walk the course.
Diaz doesn’t get into the field with just any withdrawal. If a sectional qualifier withdraws, an alternate from that same sectional gets the spot.
The Mexico native and USC Aiken graduate has a runner-up and third-place finish on the Web.com Tour this year. He has missed three of his last four cuts but played well in the 36-hole qualifier last Monday.
Diaz moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., late last year in part to improve his putting by working with Ramon Bescansa, a Jacksonville, Fla., resident and North Carolina alumnus who has become a putting guru. The two met while playing mini-tour events in the Carolinas.