CHASKA—Phil Mickelson knows the exact moment the pressure began to revamp the US Ryder Cup team from a long-term loser into the one that reclaimed the trophy Sunday by beating Europe 17-11.
“The pressure started when some dumb ass opened his mouth two years ago in the media center,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson was the one who criticized 2014 captain Tom Watson’s handling of the team at Gleneagles in the moments after a stinging loss to Europe, the Americans’ third in a row, sixth of seven and eighth in 10 meetings.
US teammate Matt Kuchar squirmed as if trying to be anywhere but seated next to Mickelson as he outlined how there was no planning and little player say in decisions.
So when Mickelson was asked Sunday a mirror image of the same question that revealed the 2014 dysfunction between captain and players, it was no shock that the entire triumphant US team turned to stare at him.
“We had a great week this week,” Mickelson said. “We had a lot of fun together as a team, and we played some great golf and we are really excited to have won.”
Mickelson’s teammates gave him an ovation for his oration, which left no captains tossed under buses but did bring full circle the two years’ work by Mickelson and many others on the Ryder Cup task force that sorted out details and strategy for this week’s effort.
It was the most lopsided US victory since an 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 romp at England’s Walton Heath in 1981, the sixth in a run of seven consecutive American triumphs.
And that is the sort of standard Mickelson sees for the future of the US Ryder Cup program. Because in the 46-year-old left-hander’s eyes, one win is where the work begins, not where it ends.
“The thing about this is that we need to build on this, otherwise, it’s all for naught,” Mickelson said. “We created a very solid foundation this year.”
US captain Love and this year’s five vice captains are vital to the mix of talent needed going forward, Mickelson said.
“Davis is going to be a very instrumental part of that going forward in two years, because for us to go to Europe and try to win the Cup is a whole different feat,” Mickelson said.
“That’s going to require a whole different level of play, of solidarity, of fortitude and we are going to have to build on this in two years if we want to try to retain the Cup.”
The Americans have not won in Europe since 1993 at the Belfry when Watson had been the captain. The time before that was 1981.
‘A multitude’ of wins
“It’s great that we had success this week, but it’s not about one year or one Ryder Cup,” Mickelson said. “It’s about a multitude, for decades to come.”
And then Love popped a champagne cork, appropriate since the US will try to defend the Cup in 2018 in France.
“That’s my cue to shut up,” Mickelson said to laughter from his teammates.
Mickelson could look at what was achieved at Hazeltine by his teammates thanks to the extra planning, decision making and strategy of the task force.
“I’ve seen a level of greatness in these guys,” Mickelson said. “The environment they were put in this week brought out some of their best golf I’ve ever seen from them. It’s truly a remarkable thing.”