CHASKA, Minn. — Phil Mickelson was such a strong figure in the Ryder Cup with his voice that it can be easy to overlook his contributions on the course.
He was the catalyst for change when the Americans lost in Scotland two years ago. He was part of the Ryder Cup Task Force, and he remains on the committee. To listen to the players, Mickelson was the most motivational speaker in the team room.
As for his play?
“I’ve had a lot of fun this week,” Mickelson said. “More fun than you can ever imagine.”
Mickelson made 10 birdies in his halve with Sergio Garcia, giving him a 2-1-1 record, his third straight Ryder Cup with a winning record. Lefty already holds the Ryder Cup record by qualifying for 11 consecutive teams dating to 1995, and his longevity is moving him up the list of other records.
He now has played 45 matches, trailing only Nick Faldo (46) for most ever in the Ryder Cup. His 18 victories trail only Arnold Palmer (22) and Billy Casper and Lanny Wadkins (each with 20). Wadkins was the U.S. captain when Mickelson made his debut at Oak Hill in 1995 and went 3-0.
Mickelson also holds the record with eight victories in fourballs matches, eclipsing the seven won by Palmer and Wadkins.
Mickelson made his 11th straight team on the strength of his runner-up finish to Henrik Stenson at the British Open. Two years ago, he made the team in the final qualifying event with a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
If he were to make the 2018 team for France, he surely would surpass Faldo’s record for most matches. He now has contributed 21½ points, which is two points behind Palmer’s U.S. record and 3½ points behind Faldo’s record of 25 points.
Mickelson has never been a captain’s pick in the Ryder Cup. If he doesn’t qualify for a 12th straight team, it will be interesting to see if he merits a pick. Mickelson was No. 30 in the Presidents Cup standings last year, the lowest position of any captain’s pick. The players wanted him, and Mickelson did his part in South Korea by going 3-0-1. That likely will be considered.
The oldest Ryder Cup player was Raymond Floyd at age 51, a captain’s pick in 1993. Jay Haas was 50 when Hal Sutton picked him in 2004.
THE WINNING BALL: Davis Love finally has the golf ball that won the Ryder Cup.
Only it’s not really his.
Love was a Ryder Cup rookie in 1993 at the Belfry when he holed a 6-foot putt on the 18th hole that clinched victory for the Americans. He raised both arms in the air and the celebration was on. And the ball stayed in the cup.
Now a captain, he stood to the side of the 18th green as Ryan Moore was on the verge of delivering the winning point. Three putts from 12 feet was all he needed, and when Moore rolled the birdie attempt a foot from the hole, Lee Westwood conceded.
“I lost my golf ball in ‘93 when I made a putt that ended the Ryder Cup. I left it in the hole,” Love said. “And I watched Ryan walk away from his on the 18th green and I went over and grabbed and took it back to him. He didn’t want it, so he gave it back to me. So now I got one from the last hole.”
BACK TO THE TOUR: The new PGA Tour season starts next week at the Safeway Open in Napa, California, and it’s the start of a new PGA Tour policy designed to get more players competing in different tournaments.
It’s known as the “strength of field” regulation.
The policy requires players to add one tournament they have not played in the previous four seasons. Bubba Watson, for example, is adding the OHL Classic in Mexico at the end of the year. Players are exempt from the policy if they played 25 tournaments last season or plan to play that many this season.
Tiger Woods during his healthy years typically played the same schedule every year. He was more inclined to add than to subtract. The policy, however, doesn’t affect Woods. It exempts lifetime members on the PGA Tour (those who have won 20 or more times) or veteran members who will turn 45 or older during the season. Phil Mickelson also would be exempt under both exemptions.
For those players with a limited schedule, they can choose just about anything. U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, for example, has 18 tournaments on his list that he can choose from this season. The other side is Lucas Glover, who has not been exempt for all the majors or World Golf Championships in the last few years, and who already has moved around his schedule. There were only three tournaments Glover has not played in the last four years.
MISSISSIPPI SUPPORT: William McGirt will be at the Sanderson Farms Championship with his golf clubs.
He just won’t be playing in the tournament.
McGirt is a regular at the Mississippi event. But he won the Memorial this year and is No. 40 in the world, making him eligible for the World Golf Championship event in Shanghai. Even though McGirt doesn’t want to play the HSBC Champions this year, the fact that he is eligible means he cannot play a PGA Tour event the same week.
He still wanted to support the tournament, and the PGA Tour at least is letting him play in the pro-am.
The tour has a policy where players who skip the pro-am are not eligible in the tournament. In this case, McGirt is not in the tournament and wants to play in the pro-am. Among recent examples of that happening are Greg Norman at the Valero Texas Open, Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial, Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill and even years ago with Roger Maltbie when the tour had the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill.
DIVOTS: The HSBC Champions will have all four major champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai for the first time since 2011. …. Just 10 days after the Ryder Cup, the PGA Tour starts a new season in the Safeway Open next week. It will be an even quicker turnaround for the Web.com Tour Finals players who earn their cards. The last event was pushed back a week so it would not conflict with the Ryder Cup. That means players who earn their cards on Sunday will be up on the big tour in four days. … Ariya Jutanugarn finished sixth last week in the Reignwood LPGA Classic and moved ahead of Lydia Ko by four points for the LPGA player of the year award. Ko is the defending champion in Taiwan this week. Jutanugarn is taking the week off. … Boo Weekley is playing this week in the Fiji International, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Patrick Reed is 6-1-2 in his two Ryder Cups. He has yet to finish in the top 10 at a major championship.
FINAL WORD: “He’s so positive, and he can really make you feel like if you’re off that you’re on.” — Jordan Spieth on Phil Mickelson.