Phil Mickelson calls out Tom Watson's work as Ryder Cup captain
U.S. captain Tom Watson suffered a pair of defeats Sunday in the Ryder Cup -- first from the Europeans, and then from Phil Mickelson.
In a subtle dig at Watson's leadership style, Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from the formula that Paul Azinger brought to the 2008 team at Valhalla, the only time since 1999 the Americans have won the Ryder Cup.
''We all do the best that we can and we're all trying our hardest,'' Mickelson said. ''And I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.''
The Americans were not at their best at Gleneagles in losing 16-1/2 to 11-1/2 to Europe, which has won eight of the past 10 times.
The best action was in a press conference, not on the course.
Mickelson spoke with Watson sitting just six seats away from him, with an empty stare while no one rose to his defense. He effectively was calling out Watson's leadership, which was more single-minded that Azinger in 2008, or even Davis Love III two years ago at Medinah.
Mickelson didn't see it as a ''brutal destruction of leadership,'' as one reporter suggested.
''You asked me what I thought we should do going forward to bring our best golf out, and I go back to when we played our best golf,'' Mickelson said.
Azinger introduced a ''pod'' system at Valhalla, and later wrote a book on his philosophy. He broke the qualifiers into three groups, and let them choose who would be the captain's pick for each pod. They ate together, stayed in the same groups, played together as teams and were next to each other in the lineups.
Asked if that happened this week, Mickelson said, ''Uh, no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So no.''
Rarely has a losing press conference been so explosive, if not awkward.
''I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team,'' Watson replied. ''It takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players. Yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with. I had a different philosophy than Paul. I decided not to go that way.''
Watson said he kept his potential teams together in practice rounds and switched some up, based on who he thought was playing well.
As for Mickelson being disloyal, Watson said only that he ''has a difference of opinion. That's OK. My management philosophy is different than his.''
One discussion Watson had with Mickelson was to sit him out Saturday.
It was the first time in his 10 Ryder Cup appearance -- an American record -- that Mickelson was benched for an entire day. Watson felt as though Mickelson and Keegan Bradley struggled Friday afternoon, and he went with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, who halved all three of their matches.
Mickelson alluded to that, too.
''Saturday morning we were both on and ready to go,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, we didn't have that chance. Today we were hopefully putting it to good use.''
Mickelson defeated Stephen Gallacher, 3 and 1.
Bradley, one of Watson's wild-card selections, lost in the decisive match to Jamie Donaldson, 4 and 3.
At one point, Jim Furyk was brought into the discussion. Furyk played on his ninth Ryder Cup team, though he steered clear of taking sides.
''I have a lot of respect for both gentlemen,'' Furyk said. ''I've known Phil my entire life. He's one of my dearest friends on the PGA Tour. And I have a lot of respect for our captain. I know he put his heart and soul in it for two years. He worked his (tail) off to try to provide what he thought would be the best opportunity for us.
''We all come here and we are trying to win a Ryder Cup together, trying to pull together as 12, as one unit,'' he said. ''We've fallen short quite a bit.''
Watson said he did not discount Azinger's formula, but that his job was simply trying to figure out who was playing the best. Watson said his two most critical jobs were the three wild-card picks and the pairings.
''The bottom line,'' Watson said, ''is they kicked our butts.''
Mickelson is likely to be a captain at some point, which he believes is still far off. But when it was mentioned he seemed to have the answers, Mickelson cut off the question.
''I've been on eight losing teams,'' he said. ''I'm only reflecting on the one time in the last 15 years that we've won and what allowed us to do that.''
It was a fitting end to a bad week for the Americans. Mickelson on Wednesday poked fun of a management lawsuit involving Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell by saying the best part of American unity is ''we don't litigate against each other.''
The week ended in disharmony -- and another loss.