“LEFTY” TAKES A “LEFT” TURN
Phil Mickelson is getting a bit feisty in his old age. His hall of fame and elder statesman status on the PGA Tour appear to have given him a comfort zone for making his feelings known. Not that “Lefty” has been alone in the new “speak your mind” world of golf.
Going into the championship round of the Fed Ex Cup tournament the worlds #1 golfer, Rory McIlroy, all of 25, with four major championships to Phil’s five and Tiger’s 14, felt right at home telling the gathered media at his Tuesday press conference that week that Phil and Tiger are on the far side of the hill as far as their golf skills are concerned and a new generation is stepping up. On that particular subject Phil stayed relatively quiet while Tiger offered a return jibe or two.
But the Ryder Cup seemed to bring out the snarky side of Mickelson as he, probably in an effort to get inside some heads on the European team, made a comment about European team members litigating against each other, an obvious reference to Graeme McDowell turning up in Rory McIlroy’s suit claiming his management firm is giving him a sustandard effort. In that suit McDowell, represented by the same firm, is listed as an example of the differences in their representations.
Phil saved the best for last, though it may not have been a planned salvo. When asked about the differences between the last American team to win the Ryder Cup and this year’s team, Mickelson, a member of both, pointed right to the differences in the philosophy’s of the captains, an energetic Paul Azinger, taking an innovative approach, breaking the team up into three “pods” under “pod” leaders and creating a competition within the competition while generating an overall feeling of comraderie.
Tom Watson’s approach this year was more straight forward, setting his pairings and letting them do what they do, play. His own assessment of the losing effort was that the players just didn’t play well enough.
Mickelson, though critical of Watson for, unlike Azinger, keeping the players out of the decision making process, backtracked a little, saying he was responding to a question and just reflecting on “the one time in the last 15 years that we won and what allowed us to do that.”
The critisism of Mickelson is coming from all corners, but where were those people over the weekend when many of them were questioning some of Watson’s pairings and why he kept Mickelson and Keegan Bradley out of both Saturday matches.
When someone raised the obvious question, if Phil might be interested in taking his philosophy to the next step, he quickly cut off the questioner. That’s the question Mickelson should respond to, but he may want to take a few weeks to think about it first. He should think about how it took a fast start to the season to get him onto the team as an automatic entry and how his play tailed off considerably over the late stages of the campaign.
When the next Ryder Cup is played, on our soil, Phil will be on the far side of 45 and his Ryder Cup playing days are likely to be in the rear view. Because he’s willing to express such strong views on how the Ryder Cup team should be captained, it might be time to turn theory into practice.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.