As usual, Mickelson free with his opinions
Veteran hopes to prod U.S. into ending loss streak
CHASKA, MINN. — He’s one of 12, a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In truth he’s one and only, a chance-taker, a champion, a right-hander who plays left-handed.
Phil Mickelson will take a swing at anything, literally with a club — it’s only 230 yards across the water — or figuratively with his suggestions.
The 41st Cup matches start today at Hazeltine National Golf Club 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Maybe the tournament will belong to Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose or Henrik Stenson.
So far, without a shot being hit except in practice, it has belonged to Mickelson.
He has explained why the United States has lost three Ryder Cups in a row and 10 of 12, and berated one former captain, Hal Sutton from 2004, and another, Tom Watson from 2014.
He has dominated team meetings, even though for a second time Davis Love III is the captain — which, by the way, was because Mickelson thought it was a smart idea.
“Phil always has a theory,” Love said. Or as analyzed by team member Brandt Snedeker, “Phil being Phil.”
After all, this is the 11th straight Ryder Cup for Mickelson, and even if his overall record is only 16-19-6, he’s the voice of experience, if not always of reason.
Been there, done that. And won every major except the U.S. Open, where he has been second on six occasions. That means something. Maybe it means everything.
At 46, the outspoken Mickelson is to golf what Reggie Jackson was to baseball, the self-described straw that stirs the drink.
He has a great short game. He also has numerous opinions.
One was that he shouldn’t have been paired with Tiger Woods in foursomes and four-balls at the disastrous ’04 Cup at Oakland Hills without having had time to test the high-spin ball used by Woods.
“Had we known a month in advance,” said Mickelson, indicting Sutton for the neglect, “we might have made it work. But that’s an example, starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail, and we failed monumentally, absolutely.”
When Sutton was contacted, he point- Phil Mickelson, practicing Thursday, is playing in his 11th straight Ryder Cup. ed out that Mickelson was in the process of switching clubs, from Titleist to Callaway, and that Mickelson should be concentrating on the current matches, not those played 12 years ago. Mickelson offered an apology.
“I was totally in the wrong,” Mickelson said.
It’s words so far, but from now on it will be shots and results. Mickelson was a force behind the let’s-fix-what’s-wrong task force created by the PGA of America, which administers the Cup this side of the Atlantic. He got what he wanted. Does the United States get the win it needs?
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to do something special,” Mickelson said. “We have been given, the first time in 20years that I’ve been involved in the Ryder Cup, actual input, actual, say, kind of ownership.”
Mickelson, who will be teamed with Rickie Fowler in the first foursomes matches today against Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan, is competitive to an extreme. He’ll gamble on going for the green rather than playing safe. As is well known, he also gambles literally. He likes to push an issue. And so he’s the man in the middle in this Ryder Cup, the one of which, as he concedes, he has “a kind of ownership.”
“I think,” Mickelson said, “that when players are put in position to succeed, oftentimes, more than not, they tend to succeed.
“This is a year where we feel Captain Love has put been putting us in position to succeed. He’s taken input from all parties.”
The most noticeable of those parties so far being Phil Mickelson. Hazeltine National Golf Club Chaska, Minn. Through Sunday Today’s TV: Golf Channel, 7:30 a.m.