Mickelson finds himself out in the cold following Ryder Cup fallout
Post by Golf Writer, Derek Clements
Phil Mickelson is a class act, loved by fellow professionals and golf fans around the globe. But he got it wrong when he decided to criticise the captaincy of Tom Watson in the immediate aftermath of the 40th Ryder Cup. Mickelson should be ashamed of himself.
Watson is 65 years old, a legend in the game of golf, but he was never going to be anything else but out of touch with his players. He even said two or three weeks before the contest that he was looking forward to getting to know his team. Paul McGinley already knew his players inside out.
Watson's decision to pick Ray Floyd and Andy North as two of his three vice-captains was bizarre in the extreme. His decision to play Mickelson and Keegan Bradley together in the afternoon foursomes on Friday was odd in the extreme. And putting Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed on the sidelines on that same afternoon after they had romped to victory over Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher was a huge mistake
Mickelson was so desperate to play on Saturday that he resorted to texting Watson to beg him to put him out in the fourballs or foursomes. Watson refused to pick him.
Despite all of that, Lefty had no right to lambast Watson in public. It is something that should have been left to the team room, or discussed in private with the captain or the US PGA. Watson did not go out to deliberately lose the Ryder Cup. He made mistakes, but he deserved the loyalty of his players. What would the atmosphere have been like on the flight home to the United States after Mickelson's outburst? Pretty tense, for sure.
Worse than the disloyalty, however, is that Mickelson may well have killed stone dead any chance he ever had of becoming a future Ryder Cup captain, and that is a shame. A team with Mickelson in charge would surely be one worth watching.
"Boys, just go out there and hit the ball as hard as you can. And have a ball," would be the gist of his team talk. You can bet that if Tiger Woods needed a wild card pick under Mickelson then he would be waiting for a call that would never come.
With the USA losing the Ryder Cup for the eighth time in ten matches, it is clear that changes need to be made. Europe's players ate their meals together - many of the Americans ate alone. That hardly inspires the team ethic, does it?
It should also be remembered that Watson was without three of his best players in Woods, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner. On top of that, he was clearly wrong to have selected Webb Simpson over Chris Kirk. But the biggest mistake of all was in leaving behind Billy Horschel, the hottest player on the planet after winning the last two fedEx Cup playoff events. The thing is that Watson had to make his wild card selections before the FedEx Cup was over, and could have had no way of knowing that Horschel was about to find the form of his life.
The American selection system is flawed, and it needs to change in time for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. The new captain, whoever that may be, must be allowed to wait until the end of the FedEx Cup Playoffs before finalising his team. He also needs to be somebody who plays with the team week in, week out. And he needs to be somebody who sits down with Paul Azinger and talks to him about the pod system that worked so well in 2008. Oh yes, and he needs to pick Azinger as a vice-captain.
Make no mistake - America has players who are good enough to beat Europe, but they must find a way to play as a united team, and they must find a way to bring out the best in players such as Bradley, Horschel, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Steve Stricker has tasted victory and defeat in the Ryder Cup. He hasn't won a major, but so what? He knows what makes the players tick, he witnessed the mistakes made at Gleneagles and is an obvious choice as captain, but will the PGA have the courage to select him?
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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