CHASKA, Minn. – For those who think a Ryder Cup captain can’t have an impact on the matches, Phil Mickelson had a story for you on Wednesday.
“Let me give you an example, if I may,” he said.
The context of Mickelson’s tale was based on how much difference a captain, like this week’s front-man Davis Love III, can make on the competition.
Lefty referenced the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills when Hal Sutton paired Mickelson with Tiger Woods, an experiment that didn’t go well with the duo going 0-2 on Day 1.
“We were told two days before that we were playing together. And that gave us no time to work together and prepare,” Mickelson said.
He went on to explain that he and Woods played vastly different golf balls at the time, with Mickelson using a low-spin ball and Tiger a high-spin model.
Mickelson said he took about five hours on an isolated hole in an attempt to learn the characteristics of Woods’ golf ball, time that should have been spent preparing for the matches and learning the golf course.
“In the history of my career, I have never ball-tested two days prior to a major. I've never done it. It doesn't allow me to play my best,” Mickelson said. “What allows me to play my best is to learn the course, sharpen my touch on the greens, sharpen my chipping out of the rough and ball striking and so forth.
"[T]hat's an example of, starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely."
By comparison, Mickelson said Love & Co. provided the team with a detailed plan well in advance so there would be no surprises when the team arrived.
It should be noted that Mickelson played his own ball in his four-ball pairing with Woods and played with a Callaway driver and metal woods for just the second time in competition that week 12 years ago.
Mickelson, who seemed to pave the way to the Ryder Cup task force when he called out Tom Watson following the team’s loss at Gleneagles two years ago, did give Sutton credit for trying to create a winning atmosphere.
“I actually loved how decisive Captain Sutton was. I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive,” Mickelson said. “Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work and could have had some success.”