Davis Love III may be the man out front, but former PGA of America president Ted Bishop wrote this week that it’s clear Phil Mickelson is the “real boss” for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2016 and beyond.
In an essay for Sports Illustrated’s Golf+ Digital, Bishop opined that Mickelson’s passive-aggressive takedown of Tom Watson at Gleneagles was merely the first step in him taking ownership of the team.
From the naming of Love as captain to changes in the Ryder Cup points structure, the PGA’s plans “had Mickelson’s fingerprints all over them,” Bishop wrote.
In the press tent in Scotland, Mickelson wondered aloud why the U.S. team had strayed from the winning formula in 2008, when Paul Azinger was at the helm. But that wasn't necessarily an endorsement of Azinger as 2016 captain, Bishop said. “Phil has told me flatly that he loved Azinger’s system, but he was not a fan of his leadership style. I’ve had my own experiences with Azinger, so I understood where Phil was coming from," he wrote. "Paul is a unique character – he has strong opinions and can sometimes be abrasive.”
Bishop says he introduced the idea of a task force to PGA officers on the flight back home from Gleneagles, and Mickelson was among the first players with whom he spoke. Though Bishop did not attend the meetings, he said that “it’s clear that Mickelson controlled the tenor” of the discussions.
Why? Well, according to Bishop, it appears that Mickelson is stepping out from behind Tiger Woods’ considerable shadow, and that Phil’s presence at last week’s news conference – coupled with Tiger’s no-show – was telling.
“I wonder if that has motivated Phil,” Bishop wrote, “because he certainly seems energized by the task at hand.”
Bishop believes the next four U.S. Ryder Cup captains will be Fred Couples (2018), Steve Stricker (2020), Jim Furyk (2022) and Mickelson (2024).