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Mickelson questions Watson's Ryder Cup captaincy style

Lefty wasn’t holding back at this evening’s press conference and pointed to Paul Azinger’s success in 2008.

Mickelson believes the US have
Mickelson believes the US have "strayed from a winning formula."
Image: Alastair Grant

PHIL MICKELSON CALLED for more player input into decisions and a better Ryder Cup game plan than American captain Tom Watson provided in the wake of Europe’s resounding victory.

The 44-year-old left-hander spoke out after Europe completed a 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 triumph over the United States at Gleneagles, delivering the third US loss in a row, sixth in seven starts and eighth in the past 10 tries.

The lone American victory since a 1999 last-day record rally at Brookline was in 2008 when Paul Azinger guided the US team to a 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 win at Valhalla.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups,” Miclkelson said.

We need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Mickelson cited Azinger’s Pod system, allowing three groups of four players to bond together, and detailed plans of how to handle situations as the model emulated in the Presidents Cup, where the US team is 8-1-1 and won five in a row against a non-European global club.

“We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well,” Mickelson said.

What went unsaid by the five-time major winner, benched all day for the first time in 10 Ryder Cup starts by Watson on Saturday, is that his ideas went directly against what had been done by Watson, the oldest-ever Cup captain at age 65.

Watson made decisions on who would play together with little player input, relying on himself and vice-captains.

“I had a different philosophy than Paul,” Watson said. “It takes 12 players to win. It’s not pods. It’s 12 players. “I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions.”

Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who suffered their first loss in five starts together in Friday foursomes, begged to play Saturday but Watson decided otherwise.

“They struggled some in the afternoon match in the foursomes, and they had a hard time hitting the fairways,” Watson said. “I put some players in there I thought could put the ball in the fairway maybe a little bit better.”

Asked if any player had input this week as they had in 2008, Mickelson paused and replied, “Uh no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.”


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Watson said he did not see Mickelson’s comments as disloyal, saying, “He has a difference of opinion. That’s OK. My management philosophy is different than his.”

Watson said his philosophy was one that could have produced a winner.

“I felt we had the very best teams out there possible,” Watson said. “The bottom line is they kicked our butts.”

Asked about making a captaincy push, Mickelson replied, “Oh, no, no. I’ve been on eight losing teams. No. I’m only reflecting on the one time in the last 15 years that we’ve won and what allowed us to do that, make no mistake.

“It sucks losing, but the experience of spending time with these guys and in Scotland and the emotions that this event brings out in us, I cherish those forever.”

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Watson had not attended a Ryder Cup since 1993, when he led the US to its most recent win in Europe, but he watched the rest on television, feeling no different Sunday that watching the 2012 US loss at Medinah.

“Not a damn thing,” said Watson “It’s the same. it hurts.”

- Furyk feels the tension -

Watson said he was confident he made the correct decisions.

“It doesn’t soothe the hurt,” Watson said.

Nine-time Cupper Jim Furyk could feel the tension over the remarks when asked his thoughts.

“I have a lot of respect for both gentlemen. I’ve known Phil my entire life. Since I was 16, I’ve competed against him. He’s one of my dearest friends,” Furyk said.

“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 ass off to try to provide what he thought would be the best opportunity for us.

“I don’t think it’s wise for any one of us to be pitted in the middle of that.”

© – AFP 2014

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