Phil Mickelson on Wednesday picked up where he left off in 2014 by throwing another U.S. Ryder cup captain under that bus that steamrolled 2014 skipper Tom Watson.
The oldest member of either team at Hazeltine also wanted to dispel the "frustrating" belief that he was in any way accountable for "that decision 12 years ago … which I was not part of."
Mickelson, whose public post-event takedown of Watson almost overshadowed the Americans’ whipping at Gleneagles, finally unveiled the reason he and Tiger Woods massively failed during their two Ryder Cup partnerships 10 years ago at Oakland Hills. Turns out it was partly about the balls, but really, it was because 2004 captain Hal Sutton put the two superstars "in positions to fail."
Phil, who favors a low-spin ball, reckoned that not having enough time to learn how to use Tiger’s high-spin orb (and clearly, not the other way around) was the high-profile duo’s undoing. In their only two pairings in the many years the two have been Ryder Cup participants, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington beat them 2&1 in the Friday morning fourball, while Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood did the honors in a 1-up victory in the afternoon foursomes.
"We were told two days before that we were playing together," Mickelson recalled in a press conference two days ahead of this year’s matches. "And that gave us no time to work together and prepare."
So off went Lefty for a five-hour cram session to analyze the equivalent of one question on a test, Tiger’s golf ball, when he contended he should have been studying for the overall exam by sharpening his short game on the greens and out of the rough.
"It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course, in an effort to crash-course and learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing," said Mickelson, who "in the history of my career" had never "ball-tested two days prior to a major."
Mickelson claimed that had Sutton given Tiger and him a month to ready themselves, "We might have been able to make it work … probably would have made it work."
"Hey, sorry for that drive miles left, Tiger. But you agree, it's all Hal's fault, right?" pic.twitter.com/y2vB751uGM— Jim McCabe (@GolfweekMcCabe) September 28, 2016
Yeah, both could have played better, but Mickelson termed such finger-pointing "misinformed because you will play how you prepare."
Attempting to soften the blow he had just landed on Sutton, who was devastated, bitter, disillusioned, and betrayed by the entire affair, according to Golf Channel.com, Mickelson claimed he was "not trying to throw — to knock anybody here," and lauded the ’04 chief for his decisiveness.
In the end, though, Mickelson made it clear that it was Sutton who "put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely."
He also confirmed that the inmates are running the asylum this time around at Hazeltine, where Team USA hopes to halt a three-game losing streak.
"It’s been really exciting for us … to have this much input and involvement in the process," Mickelson said.
Should the Americans fail yet again to wrest the cup from the Euros, who have reveled in eight of the last 10 tourneys, we can’t help but wonder if there’s room under that bus for Davis Love III, and, by his own reasoning, Mickelson and the entire 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team.