Jason Millard will sleep soundly

Millard also had endured more than any 24-year-old should. His father, Eddie, had succumbed to leukemia 14 months earlier, leaving the only child as one of the primary caregivers for his mother, Debbie, whose long battle with multiple sclerosis has left her in a wheelchair.

"He's been a really big help to me," Debbie said Friday by phone. She said Jason walks her dog, picks up her meds, buys her groceries, you name it.

So maybe after losing his father and caring so much for his ailing mother, Jason Millard might've figured he deserved a break, or the benefit of the doubt.

"Yeah, that did pop into my mind," he conceded. "But then again, every single thing you can think about popped into my mind over those five days."

Pierson understood why his friend was so tormented by the possibilities of what did or did not go down that day in the sand.

"Jason can't bear guilt," he said. "He has high morals and great character, and I'm just surprised it took as long as it did. But I think one reason it took as long as it did was Jason wanted to play the U.S. Open for his father on Father's Day."

Eddie Millard was only 60 when he died from leukemia. He'd spent four decades in the car dealership business, selling and repairing and painting, and in his time off he appreciated nothing more than the time he spent with his boy on the golf course.

The father was tough on the son, but he was forever quick to boast to friends about the birdies on Jason's cards.

"Eddie was always there with Jason," Pierson said. "He was one of those neighborhood dads who gave us all direction, and Jason listened to what he had to say."

Eddie Millard used to tell his son that he shouldn't dwell on a bad shot, that he needed to get over it and move on. So that's what Jason tried to do on the road back from that run-down gas station on I-40 last Saturday. It was the road back from a U.S. Open spot he'd just handed to an alternate out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham named Sam Love, who missed the cut after expressing his admiration for Millard's grace and integrity.

On arrival in Murfreesboro, Millard spelled out his decision to his mother, who grew emotional.

"I was disappointed for him, but I was very proud that he did the right thing," Debbie Millard said. "He's an honest person. I'm sure Eddie would've been proud of him too."

Eddie would've expected nothing less. When Jason hasn't been tending to his mother the past few days, running the errands his old man used to run, he's been working on his game with Pierson. He's been trying to escape the sport by playing it.

"The best thing for me was to be on a golf course," Jason said, "even if it's not the one I want to be on."

Pinehurst.

Friday morning, Millard said he knew enough about the tournament to know that Kaymer was running away with it. Slowly, if not so surely, he was adjusting to the fact that life at the U.S. Open was going on without him.

Of the first highlights Millard saw Thursday, he said, "They gave me chills. I felt like, 'Why can't I be there right now?' But I know I did the right thing, and I have a clear conscience. I still don't know to this day if I grounded my club in the bunker, and if I did, now I don't have to live with that guilt the rest of my life."

Millard said that he expected to visit Eddie's grave site on Father's Day, and that he hoped to feel enough peace with his choice to sit down and watch Kaymer try to get this one to the house.

Either way, they will give out a big, shiny trophy to someone at Pinehurst, and that's OK. Jason Millard has already won his first major.

This week, by a 10-shot margin, he became the most honorable man in sports.

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