Chaska, US: Phil Mickelson finally has the US Ryder Cup team of his dreams with abundant player input into decisions, methodical planning of key details and an enjoyable partnership with Tiger Woods.
And he didn’t mind tossing 2004 US Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton under the bus on Wednesday at Hazeltine the same way he did 2014 captain Tom Watson at Gleneagles after a dysfunctional US side lost to Europe for a third consecutive time. The tournament begins on Friday until October 2.
The 46-year-old left-hander will make his 11th consecutive appearance in the men’s team golf showdown starting Friday after he, assistant captain Woods and US captain Davis Love guided a task force designed to build a successful long-term Cup program.
“You play how you prepare,” Mickelson said. “When we win or play well in majors, it’s because we prepared properly and that allowed to us bring out our best golf.
“Captain Love has been putting us in a position to succeed. He’s taken input from all parties. He’s making decisions that have allowed us to prepare our best and I believe we will play our best.”
Part of that has been to unite rivals Woods and Mickelson, whose most notable Cup moment in 2004 came when “Lefty” hooked a crucial tee shot left into dense trees in an alternate shot foursomes match and Woods gave him a death stare for the ages.
“It’s been fun for Tiger and I,” Mickelson said of the Cup project. “The last few weeks we’ve been talking on the phone multiple times a day. It has been really exciting for us, because we’ve been on so many teams for so many years, to have this much input and involvement in the process.
“The decisions we are accountable for every single year, we now have involvement in.”
Five-time major winner Mickelson exposed a lack of input into Watson’s 2014 team and unveiled how Sutton partnered him and Woods on two day’s notice not realizing they used different styles of golf balls – 18-time major winner Woods with extra spin and Mickelson with very little. Paired twice, they lost twice.
“That gave us no time to work together and prepare,” Mickelson said. “I grabbed a couple dozen of his balls and tried to learn his golf ball in a four- or five-hour isolated session.
“It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course.
“What allows me to play my best is to learn the course.”
Mickelson added: “That put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely.”
Mickelson remains irked 12 years later over things that were out of his control, issues he vows will not hit US players again.
“I’ve had to be accountable for that decision of which I was not part of. That’s a very frustrating thing,” Mickelson said.
Love accepts Mickelson’s outspoken manner as “Phil being Phil” but sees that vanish when Woods and Mickelson tell stories after dinner, mesmerising the US team as players hang on every word of every tale.
“Phil was in a chair and Tiger was standing behind him and it was just non-stop Ryder Cup stories,” Love said. “It didn’t take a day for Tiger and Phil to take over in the team room to be telling the stories. Those guys need to take leadership and Tiger and Phil are great at it.”
Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth, a 23-year-old whom Mickelson hailed as the next great US leader, was listening close so he can pass along the stories to future generations.