Sep 25, 2014 6:26 AM
Mickelson injects some buzz into the Ryder Cup
The Associated Press
GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) Phil Mickelson once had a corporate sponsor that built a marketing campaign around the phrase, "What will Phil do next?"
The better question: What will Phil say next?
Right when the Ryder Cup was dragging through the doldrums of interviews where captains and players try to say all the right things, along came Mickelson with one of his playful digs that gave the media something more than Sir Alex Ferguson to talk about.
The topic was whether Americans should be questioned for lacking team chemistry when have trailed only once in the last four Ryder Cups after the team matches.
"Well, not only are we able to play together," Mickelson said, "we also don't litigate against each other. And that's a real plus, I feel, heading into the week."
Laughter outweighed a few groans. Michael Gibbons, the European Tour press officer moderating the interview, smiled and said, "Ouch."
"I couldn't resist," Mickelson said. "Sorry."
Was he really?
The dig was directed at Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, whose relationship was a topic earlier in the week.
McIlroy left his original management after winning his first major to join McDowell at Horizon Sports Management. McIlroy left Horizon last year in a split so contentious that it led to lawsuits by both parties. It has become so nasty that McIlroy's lawyers have sought evidence that McDowell was getting a better deal. A judge recent suggested they go to mediation to keep sensitive documents from going public.
Mickelson is renowned as much for his needle as his five majors. This was not a spontaneous reply. This was a funny one-liner that Lefty thought of before he walked into the room. All he needed was prompting.
If there was a purpose behind the barb, only Mickelson knows.
The Europeans didn't appear to be taking it too seriously.
"It's one of those things you read it, you laugh about it and that's it," Martin Kaymer said.
Justin Rose said he noticed Mickelson approach McIlroy at the gala Wednesday night in Glasgow and say something to him.
"It's no real big deal," Rose said. "Obviously, if someone says something ... I'll call it banter and nothing more serious than that."
Not many observers are giving the Americans much of a chance when the Ryder Cup gets underway Friday at Gleneagles. Europe has won the cup seven of the last nine times. It has not lost at home since 1993 when the U.S. captain was 44-year-old Tom Watson.
Watson is back at age 65 as the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history. Mickelson is back at his 10th Ryder Cup, extending his American record for most appearances. Tiger Woods is out with an injury. Dustin Johnson is out of golf to cope with his "personal challenges."
Mickelson's comment brought the conspiracy theorists out in force.
Perhaps he was getting back at McIlroy for his comments two weeks ago that Mickelson and Woods were on the "last few holes" of their careers, a harmless and factual comment that even Woods thought was funny.
Or maybe Mickelson was still stewing over the end of the PGA Championship, when McIlroy in the final group hit toward the 18th green at Valhalla before Mickelson and Fowler had finished the hole. McIlroy had a two-shot lead, and while there was precedent for a player to hit off the final tee to beat darkness, it was peculiar to not let the group in front finish the hole.
Earlier on Wednesday, McIlroy defending his decision to go with a new driver this week. Someone brought up the time Mickelson switched equipment companies ahead of the 2004 Ryder Cup, which turned out to be a bad week for Mickelson and the Americans.
McIlroy was at Oakland Hills as a 15-year-old member of Europe's Junior Ryder Cup team.
"Phil Mickelson nearly hit me off the tee in 2004," McIlroy said with a smile. "I was standing down the left-hand side, so I'm very aware of what he did that week."
It's not like this Ryder Cup needed a spark once the matches get going.
Europe hates losing to the Americans no matter how often it wins. The Americans are coming off the biggest collapse on home soil two years ago at Medinah.
Rickie Fowler summed up Mickelson the best.
"Phil's always Phil. That's why we love him," Fowler said. "He's a lot of fun to be around, and we hear a lot of those one-liners in practice rounds in Tuesday games. So it's nothing new to me."
Mickelson delivered one of the great final rounds in a major last year at Muirfield with a 65 to win the British Open. While everyone was praising his play, Woods' comment was only that the course was "gettable." Two weeks later, Woods shot a 61 at Firestone on his way to a seven-shot victory and another World Golf Championship.
If anyone asked Mickelson what he thought about Woods' performance, he was prepared to say cheekily that the course was "gettable."
No one asked.
This time, he had his opening and charged right through.
"I might get roasted, but I couldn't resist," Mickelson told Golf Digest's website after his press conference. "I can handle it. We all need to laugh at ourselves. I think it's funny."