Watching a smiling Phil Mickelson stride toward the 18th green on Sunday, the British Open amazingly all but his after he stormed into the lead from five shots down, it was easy to preoccupy oneself with the incredible: How did he do it? What about those two 3-woods he smacked on his way to a birdie on the par-5 17th? And where was Steve Stricker, anyway?
Wisconsin's golfers were a collective no-show at Muirfield. Jerry Kelly of Madison needed to win the John Deere Classic a week earlier in order to qualify, but finished fourth. (You can cry for him, but he won $190,133.) Skip Kendall of Milwaukee didn't get an exemption either, opting instead to play this weekend at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Madison! Oh -- Madison, Miss. Never mind.
And Stricker? Currently no. 10 in the world rankings, he decided to skip the oldest major, held in the birthplace of golf, because he and his wife, Nicki, were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.
Scotland? Screw that.
I was about to give Stricker kudos for putting his family first. But look at it this way: Stricker has competed in eight events in 2013, and earned $2,306,746 on five top-10 finishes (and no wins). It's pretty easy to put your family first when you can play on the PGA Tour for 23 years and earn more than $37 million without ever having your name etched on the Claret Jug. Or any jug.
This weekend, all the talk was about Tiger Woods (it always is) and Lee Westwood (the leader until late), who like Stricker often earns mention as the best player yet to win a major. Mickelson was an afterthought until his final string of birdies started on 13; Adam Scott at that moment was the likelier player to overtake the imploding Westwood. Mickelson, who earned $1,442,826 for his troubles, is an all-timer -- but the PGA Tour is primarily made up of guys like Kendall, whose 8-under, 54th-place finish in Madison, Miss., this weekend netted him $6,870. Or Stricker: Absurdly wealthy, even without ever having tasted the claret that Lefty so enjoyed on Sunday.