Ryder Cup is Phil Mickelson’s cup of coffee
12:23 PM
Art Spander in Phil Mickelson, Ryder Cup, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, articles, golf

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — The critic had mellowed. Or more accurately, swallowed. “The coffee here is unbelievable, isn’t it?” said Phil Mickelson, not waiting for an answer, as if anyone dared disagree.

“The chocolate,” Mickelson continued, “the food. I had two pieces of bread the other night. I can’t remember the last time I did that.”

Oh yes, Lefty, on stage, off the tee, full of opinions and occasionally himself, playing the game of life along with the game of golf, a personality with personality and one of the great short games.

He’s back for another Ryder Cup, his 12th, knocking balls around Le Golf National, a course some 20 miles from Paris, rather than knocking anyone in charge of the U.S. squad, a veteran who knows what club to hit and knows what to say — even when, perhaps, he should remain silent.

“You would think I would get desensitized to it,” Mickelson said of his years as part of the American team, “but I have come to love and cherish these weeks even more, this week especially, with the amount of not just talented players but quality guys that are on our team.”

He is 48, a generation apart from teammates Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, nearly six years older than Tiger Woods, his longtime rival.

Along with Woods, Mickelson, or “Philly Mick” as they call him in New York, was a captain’s pick for this year’s team, chosen as much for reputation as performance — although in March he did get his first Tour victory in five years.

Phil was not playing in Friday morning’s four-balls, or better ball, as America tries to end a streak of five straight defeats in Europe, and Mickelson was asked if that happens, after his insistence on change following the loss four years ago in Scotland, would it be one of the crowning achievements in his career.

“I would not look at it that way,” said a magnanimous Mickelson, “because this is a team event and this is an event for all of us to cherish and be part of, and every person from the caddies, the spouses, the captains, vice captains and every player plays an integral part of the puzzle to do well and succeed.”

Of course, four years ago, when the U.S. was pummeled at Gleneagles, Scotland, it was one man, Mickelson, who found a reason and pressed to correct that. Mickelson said that Tom Watson, the captain that year — and for a second time, overall — was unable to communicate with his players and removed them from any part of the decision-making.

The PGA of America, which controls the Ryder Cup — not to be confused with the PGA Tour — took Mickelson’s advice, altered the method selecting wild-card players and the made other fixes. The plan worked, and in 2016 the U.S. won the Cup at Hazeltine, near Minneapolis.

In the 2004 Cup at Oakland Hills outside Detroit, Mickelson was paired with Woods, a dream team that turned into a nightmare. In foursomes, when players hit alternate shots with one ball, Phil might drive into the rough and a glowering Tiger would be forced to extricate the ball with the subsequent shot. They barely looked at each other.

But 14 years make a difference. Now Tiger and Phil, relative golden oldies compared to a Spieth or Brooks Koepka, have arranged to play each other in a multimillion-dollar match. And Phil said he willingly would join Tiger in this Ryder Cup, although U.S. captain Jim Furyk did not give his endorsement,

“I think when we (Woods and Mickelson) really started to work together to succeed,” said Phil, “going back in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, we have a lot more in common than we thought, and we came to appreciate working together to achieve things.”

If time doesn’t cure all ills, it does help change perspective. Woods and Mickelson have reached detente at a time in their careers when they can’t always reach the green of a par-5 in two shots.

“When we go over the little details as to why we were or were not successful,” said Mickelson, “it sometimes comes out like I’m taking a shot at somebody. I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Peace in our time.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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