The Ryder Cup ended Sunday around Noon, but the most entertaining part of the week for the USA side may have come off the course in the post-event press conference. All 12 members sat on a dais for a joint press conference, and thankfully Phil Mickelson was seated on the far left, well away from Tom Watson's position in the center.
In a horribly tense and awkward press conference for the USA team, but delightfully entertaining for the audience, Mickelson savaged Watson's captaincy this week, and did so on several occasions. The most notable critique was the overall Team USA deviation from the 2008 "pod" strategy put in place by then-captain Paul Azinger.
On the course after his match, Mickleson lobbed a comparable grenade in talking to Golf Channel's Steve Sands, questioning why they had "strayed" from the 2008 strategy. They were shots at Captain Watson, whether indirect or direct, and his strategy for this losing year. Here's video of Phil's presser comments holding up the 2008 strategy against what was done by Watson (via GolfChannel)
Part of Mickelson's frustration undoubtedly stems from his sitting out an entire day, back-to-back sessions, for the first time in his 20-year career in these cup events. After playing 36 on Friday, Mickelson said he needed rest and sat out Saturday morning. It was expected that he and Keegan Bradley would get the call for the afternoon foursomes session, but Watson kept them on the bench. Tim Rosaforte reported that Mickelson pleaded with Watson, and even texted him a second time at the last minute saying "We can get this done" but the captain told him no.
After firing the shots comparing this year to Azinger's captaincy, Mickelson was asked if he or anyone was consulted on any decisions this week and gave a curt answer. He was not happy.
Just re-watched the presser. Phil was PISSED - https://t.co/d6nAYZD3ZC— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) September 28, 2014
Bradley was asked about the benching, but only after Mickelson said "Keegan, why don't you take that one, I've probably said enough." Bradley wasn't thrilled, saying he was "bummed" about the move that had him sit out an entire day.
Watson, who was sitting just down the line, responded to Phil "I had a different philosophy being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players. And I felt, I based my decisions on, yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with." Watson added, "He has a difference of opinion. That's okay."
Watson spent most of the week specifically citing the play of the players and their shortcomings on the course when asked about different strategy decisions he made.
The entire sequence was remarkable. Even Jim Furyk, one of Mickelson's contemporaries who has been a part of all these teams, was asked to assess the" back-and-forth" going on in the press conference and responded, "Gee, thanks. Just sitting over here minding my own business" to everyone's laughter. Furyk toed the line, saying he was great friends with Phil and respected the work Watson had done but "didn't think it wise to get in the middle of it."
Furyk would later add that if he knew the "winning formula," he would have "changed this shit a long time ago."
After the press conference, one player, perhaps Phil, perhaps not, sent a text to Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck with another brutal jab at Watson.
How do the players feel about Capt. Watson? One team member just texted me: "Although he's rarely right, he's never in doubt!"— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) September 28, 2014
The entire press conference was remarkable. It's so rare to have players critique each other in public, let alone in public when they're both in the same room. There was obviously much instant reaction on Twitter as the two golf legends went back-and-forth.
Man, that was bizarre. Phil basically threw Watson under the bus and let it roll back over him as well. Just amazing bluntness— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) September 28, 2014
That wasn't even a stab in the back by Mickelson. He knifed Watson in his chest in front of everyone. Brutally fascinating press conference— Paul Mahoney (@paulmahoneygolf) September 28, 2014
Meanwhile, the US presser was the most fun I've had all year on Tour - exquisite in its awkwardness. Phil's seething at Capt. Tom? Priceless— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) September 28, 2014
Staff at Gleneagles need to take the booze out of the US team room or Phil and Tom are going to be throwing bottles at each other. #RyderCup— Paul Mahoney (@paulmahoneygolf) September 28, 2014
Good lord. Phil Mickelson has just torn Tom Watson a new one in the Ryder Cup press conference. This could get nasty.— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryESPN) September 28, 2014
Wow wow wow, this is getting awkward. Phil says bitterly: "No player was involved in any decision this week."— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) September 28, 2014
The media center became uncomfortable when Mickelson said we need to get back to Azinger's winning formula with Watson present.— Todd Lewis (@ToddLewisGC) September 28, 2014
Looks on other players faces are EXTREMELY uncomfortable— Michael Collins (@ESPNCaddie) September 28, 2014