By now it is no secret that Tom Watson was not a players' captain. He didn’t communicate well. He didn’t rally the U.S. team around a central theme. And, according to an ESPN.com story published Friday, he utterly failed to motivate the American side.
According to the report, Watson mocked some players on the European team, dismissed a gift that his players had given him and criticized many of the U.S. team’s members for their poor performance during a team meeting on Saturday.
That criticism came in front of a room filled with players, caddies, wives and PGA of America officials. More than 40 people, according to story, were in the room when Watson dismissed a replica of the Ryder Cup that was signed by his players and presented to him as a gift.
Watson told the players that the gift meant nothing to him if the U.S. team didn’t rally and win the actual trophy.
“It was fairly shocking that he treated this thoughtful gift with such disdain,” said one of four sources that witnessed the event.
Watson began the proceedings by saying, “You stink at foursomes,” a source said following another alternate-shot session where the American side failed to earn a full point.
But the most telling part of the report involved Phil Mickelson, who a night later would cause a stir during the post-Ryder Cup press conference when he said the U.S. had “strayed from a winning formula.”
Hoggard: Watson killed team spirit on Saturday
Mickelson has been largely criticized for seemingly speaking out against Watson and his techniques. Some have said Lefty should not have aired the team’s dirty laundry on Sunday night with his reference to the “winning formula” employed by Paul Azinger in 2008.
He also not-so-subtly confirmed that Watson’s leadership style didn’t exactly include an open-door policy. When asked on Sunday if any member of the U.S. team had been involved in Watson’s decision-making process, Mickelson said, “No, nobody here was in any decision.”
But according to the report and various sources interviewed by GolfChannel.com, it was Mickelson who attempted to fuel a Sunday singles rally.
After Watson had alienated much of the team with his old-school approach, Mickelson did what leaders do.
“Phil called every single person out by name and gave them all the reason why he loves them and why they should be part of the team,” a source who was in the team room told GolfChannel.com. “It was a difference between leading with a carrot and stick.”
The U.S. rally on Sunday was stymied before it could even start following victories by Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at the top of the European order, a blow that was followed hours later by Mickelson’s assessment of the current American Ryder Cup process.
Yet for all the vitriol Mickelson - who is nothing if not calculating when it comes to sending a message - has endured, the revelations from Saturday’s meeting seem to suggest he was not alone in his disenchantment.
Watson had already lost the team room, and Lefty was looking ahead to 2016 and hoping the United States doesn’t lose another Ryder Cup.
“He was definitely the leader on that team. He said what needed to be said in the most diplomatic way,” a source told your scribe.
Maybe you didn’t like the way Mickelson delivered the message, but there is no questioning his intentions.