The Spaniard, 10th in the World Golf Ranking and a popular pick at the U.S. Open, is 3-over par through his first five holes and has yet to hit a green in regulation.
When told the five-times major victor, who was attending his daughter's high school graduation, had officially withdrawn, Diaz was thrust into his first U.S. Open and more than held his own, a birdie at the last capping a respectable even-par 72.
Victory would have made him just the sixth man in golf history to win all four majors, but Phil Mickelson will not be traveling to Erin Hills, Wisconsin, for this year's US Open. Mickelson will attend his daughter Amanda's high school graduation in Carlsbad, Calif. Amanda, the Pacific Ridge School president, will give the commencement speech.
Instead, the U.S. Open began Thursday under sunshine with little threat of bad weather all day. This now becomes the first major since the 1994 Masters to take place with Mickelson and Tiger Woods as absentees.
Paul Casey, who shot 66 in the afternoon to tie for second, watched on television in the morning and said Fowler put on a clinic. But "barring something unforeseen", Mickelson said last week, "I won't be there".
"I didn't see seven under at the start of the week, but today is the best we are going to get".
It's more than worth the trouble for the 30-year-old Mexico native who now lives in SC and plays most of his golf on the Web.com Tour.
Mickelson, who celebrates his 47th birthday Friday, said he believes he will have more chances at that elusive U.S. Open trophy, and the next few years are favorable. Six times he has finished second in the event.
This is the same daughter who almost caused Mickelson to withdraw from the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
When the public goes to Erin Hills to play golf, they'll face this kind of grass - which the course routinely cuts and dries and sells as hay - but they won't face it when it's this thick.
Now that he is established and that honeymoon phase is long behind him, Fowler just has one thing in his mind, which is to get that one win before his window is up.
- Fowler after his record-setting score of 7 under.
Lee Westwood and Andrew Johnston carded rounds of 69 to lie just four strokes off the pace with a host of others, while Masters champion Garcia birdied the final hole for a round of 70.
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