Phil Mickelson wants a mulligan on his sharp criticism of Hal Sutton’s captaincy of the 2004 Ryder Cup, while Danny Willett wishes his brother would just shut up.
The pre-Ryder Cup controversies hit the mea culpa stage, after Mickelson slammed Sutton for setting him and Tiger Woods up for failure at Oakland Hills a decade ago, and Pete Willett caused his Ryder Cup-playing brother consternation by insulting all things American.
"I was totally in the wrong," Mickelson told Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte Wednesday night. "I never should have brought that up. I used an extreme example the way decisions can affect play, and I never should have done that because it affected Hal."
Earlier, Sutton had fired back at Mickelson for blaming the ’04 skipper for a last-minute decision that he said set him and Tiger Woods up to fail in the only two pairings in their many years participating in the biennial event.
"We were told two days before that we were playing together, and that gave us no time to work together and prepare," Mickelson said during Wednesday’s pre-tournament hoopla that threatened to render the Ryder Cup itself a ho-hum affair.
Lefty complained about having to learn to play Woods’ high-spin ball in just two days. That was not enough time, he claimed, to prevent a 2&1 loss to Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington in the opening fourball match and a 1-down defeat to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood in the afternoon foursomes.
Mickelson damned Sutton with faint praise by lauding him for being "decisive," but, much as he did to Tom Watson after the Americans’ disaster at Gleneagles two years ago, threw the captain to the dogs for the way he "put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely."
Sutton, who left golf for five years in the finger-pointing aftermath of the devastating 18.5-9.5 drubbing of his squad, was in the U.S. team room Tuesday night and playing golf nearby with other former captains on Wednesday. So he had a chance to respond to Mickelson’s barbs.
"There’s a lot of controversy that follows Phil everywhere, I’ll leave it at that," Sutton told GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard. "He wasn’t even prepared with the ball that he brought to the tournament, much less Tiger’s. So, I think he needs to search his own soul a little bit."
Sutton referred to Mickelson’s head-scratching decision to switch golf gear a week before the ’04 biennial event -- a change that Sutton believed undermined his team’s chances.
"He didn't even call me and tell me he was changing the equipment," Sutton told Golf Digest. "And he changed not only equipment, he changed ball too.
"So, print that. Print that. Print that. He let his whole team down," said Sutton. "So he's talking about Hal Sutton? He let his whole team down."
Sutton was amused to learn that the long-ago Tiger-Phil pairing was au courant at Hazeltine.
"I think Phil better get his mind on what he needs to have it on this week instead of on something that happened 10 years ago," Sutton said.
"You all write it the way you see it instead of wanting me to do this. I mean, my God, somebody's got to be the fall guy. If it needs to be me, I can do that. If he wants to put the blame on me, then let him do it," added the 58-year-old 1983 PGA champion. "If I still need to shoulder the blame for Phil, I'll do that."
Mickelson, hearing that his comments so wounded Sutton that he was planning to leave the event, texted his former captain to apologize and ask him to remain at Hazeltine.
"I’ve communicated with him," Mickelson said. "I feel awful. It was never meant to be like that, I was trying to use an example of how a captain can have a strong affect. Unfortunately it came across the way it did. I feel awful and I want him to be out here and be a part of this, so I’ve communicated with him that I’m sorry and I hope that he stays."
Meanwhile, Willett was upset with his sibling for calling Americans "pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hotdog so they can scream 'Baba booey' until their jelly faces turn red" — among other amusing-but-crass insults.
Danny Willett apologizes for brother's comments, Phil apologizes for dissing Hal Sutton. @GolfweekMcCabe sez: "The matches are all square."— Cam Cole (@rcamcole) September 29, 2016
With Phil's apology to Hal Sutton, the #RyderCup is all square. 1 apology a side.— Jim McCabe (@GolfweekMcCabe) September 29, 2016
He was also unhappy that he had to dress down his brother when he should have been focusing on the upcoming matches.
"I’d just like to apologize obviously, to everyone involved and what’s been said," Willett, a Ryder Cup rookie, told Golf Channel. "It’s obviously not the thoughts of myself and of the team and of captain Darren [Clarke]."
"I spoke to him on the phone … and I said to Pete I was obviously disappointed in what was said and what was written about," Willett added.
Willett also apologized directly to U.S. captain Davis Love III.
"He took it very well and I think he's drawn a line under it obviously for himself and for the team," Willett said. "So hopefully everybody else can do the same and hopefully we can get on and have a great tournament."
Danny Willett had nothing but kind words for U.S. fans, who "'took me under their wing fantastically" at Augusta National Golf Club as he was winning the Masters.
"It was tough then to kind of get your head around everything,'' Willett told Golf Channel. ''You kind of wanted to get off the golf course and hopefully get it sorted, you know, like I said to Pete today, as quick as possible and then, like I said, hopefully draw a line under it and get back to what we're doing out here."
His captain was less charitable toward brother Pete and far more forthright in his anger.
"I showed it to Danny, and he's bitterly disappointed in his brother's article," Clarke told reporters. "It is not what Danny thinks. It is not what I think. It is not what Team Europe stands for."
But it is definitely what Pete WIllett stands for, so don’t be surprised if we hear more from Danny’s brother before the cup ceremony Sunday night.
I'm just pleased there was a time you took me seriously. https://t.co/Dqa0WFrqYS— P J Willett (@P_J_Willett) September 28, 2016