Something of a mutiny broke out at the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s joint press conference after losing to Europe for the third-straight time on Sunday.
Phil Mickelson criticised Tom Watson, even fact-checking the captain when he was sitting right next to him. Tom Watson criticised the players. And the whole thing got awkward.
The most damning criticism came from Mickelson. He lavished praise on Paul Azinger, the guy who captained the U.S. to their last Ryder Cup win in 2008, and questioned why Watson strayed from his “pod” strategy.
From Phil (transcript via ASAP Sports):
Q. Anyone that was on the team at Valhalla, can you put your finger on what worked in 2008 and what hasn’t worked since?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who — when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, we had Ray Floyd, and we hung out together and we were all invested in each other’s play. We were invested in picking Hunter that week; Anthony Kim and myself and Justin were in a pod, and we were involved on having Hunter be our guy to fill our pod. So we were invested in the process. And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. And I think that, you know, we all do the best that we can and we’re all trying our hardest, and I’m just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.
Q. That felt like a pretty brutal destruction of the leadership that’s gone on this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I’m sorry you’re taking it that way. I’m just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It’s certainly — I don’t understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going toward to bring our best golf out and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.
Q. That didn’t happen this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Uh (pausing) no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.
Despite Phil’s protest that his comments were a jab at Watson, he was angry:
Things got more awkward from there.
At one point Watson broke into someone else’s answer to mention that the three U.S. rookies — Jordan Speith, Patrick Reed, and Jimmy Walker — contributed 8.5 points to the team.
When the questioning swung back around the Mickelson, he snarkily fact-checked that:
“Now, I’m not a mathematician; had they given us eight and a half points, we would have won The Ryder Cup. But the 3 1/2 points they did give us was exceptional, and they kept us in it and they are just brilliant players.”
It turns out that both guys are wrong. Those three rookies contributed six points to the team’s total of 11.5. If they had given them eight and a half, the score would have finished 14-14 and Europe would have kept the Cup, for what it’s worth.
When asked what went wrong, Watson said some of the players were “tired,” and replied, “Well, the obvious answer is that our team has to play better. That’s the obvious answer, and they do. I think they recognise that fact; that somehow, collectively, 12 players have to play better.”
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