Phil Mickelson has had his share of disappointments in his long, storied career as a professional golfer. But nothing to date matched the pain of his U.S. team’s collapse at this year’s Ryder Cup contest, Lefty said Monday night.
"I don’t know what happened Sunday," Mickelson told the hosts of Monday Night Football Countdown prior to his hometown San Diego Chargers taking on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the evening’s NFL showdown. "I’m still licking wounds from that, it still stings. It’s one of the toughest, most difficult losses I’ve ever had in my career."
Mickelson, who took a shot at $1 million for charity during halftime of what at the time was a 24-0 Chargers blowout led by the Bolts’ QB Philip Rivers, again defended his decision to take himself and blistering hot team partner Keegan Bradley out of the fray for Saturday’s afternoon tilt.
Reiterating the "game plan" mantra that U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and team members have chanted since losing the 10-6 lead they enjoyed entering Sunday’s singles finale, Mickelson stuck to the party line that not playing everyone in all five matches was the way to go.
Unfortunately, things did not work out quite as drawn up in the locker room, as the U.S. went on to score only 3.5 points in singles competitions and bow to the Euros, 14.5-13.5.
"I thought it was a great idea because we were fresh and ready for the singles and we had a four-point lead," Mickelson told ESPN’s panel of yakkers. "Of my nine Ryder Cups, that’s the only time that’s ever happened [that] we had that kind of lead, so whatever Davis did the first two days was right on."
Mickelson viewed the Medinah meltdown as one of the worst blows he has suffered inside the ropes.
"Individually, that and the  Winged Foot U.S. Open loss [a monumental flop that put the big southpaw in shock] were the two that have stung the most. This one still hurts because I really thought we were going to get this win."
Mickelson noted that golf was an individual sport in which players were used to being responsible only for themselves. The team concept of Ryder Cup play and all it represents made the defeat that much more difficult to accept and had Phil searching for how to explain the letdown.
"When we had to be accountable to our teammates and to our country and the people that are pulling for us and supporting us in the United States of America," Mickelson said, "we just -- just felt so -- I mean, we still do, we feel so down and disappointed about it."
Mickelson, by the way, made it clear he would not trade his golf spikes for football cleats under any circumstances.
"When I come down on the field and I see how vicious this sport is and how hard you’re getting hit," he said, "that’s very difficult for me to relate to."
One thing the four-time major champ could totally relate to, however, was the plight of Rivers, who -- like the golfing Phil prior to the Masters in 2004 -- has never one football’s version of a U.S. Open.
"Before I ever won a major and a big tournament, that was the knock, is that I came so close and I wasn’t able to come through in the big one," Mickelson observed. "And that’s been the knock on somebody with...the kind of talent Philip Rivers has, to have not won a big playoff game, Super Bowl, what have you.
"I believe he’s going to do it," Mickelson said before Rivers led his team to that huge halftime lead and then tossed a goose-egg as Manning engineered a 35-point come-from-behind stunner.
We’re sure Mickelson was bummed to witness yet another humongous debacle, but we’re guessing Rivers’ stinker, which include six turnovers, won’t rankle the golfer quite so much as last month’s blown lead.
"We really thought this was our Ryder Cup," Mickelson said. "I can’t believe we didn’t pull through."