Mickelson pick pays off for U.S. despite 'dumb stuff'

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INCHEON, South Korea – U.S. captain Jay Haas raised a few eyebrows when he selected Phil Mickelson with one of his captain’s picks considering that Lefty played the last three months of the PGA Tour season without a top-10 finish and failed to qualify for the Tour Championship.

But for four days at the Presidents Cup, Mickelson proved why he was so valuable to the U.S. team.

Mickelson paired perfectly with Zach Johnson, beating Jason Day and Steven Bowditch on Day 1, 2 up, and Adam Scott and Anirban Lahiri in Saturday’s fourball session, 3 and 2.

The veteran’s only misstep came during his Friday fourball match when he switched to a “firmer [golf] ball” on the seventh tee to violate the one-ball condition. The penalty was a one-hole “adjustment to the state of the match,” and the American duo halved the match with Scott and Day.

Mickelson seemed to compound that miscue, and provide the Internationals with bulletin board material, when he said, “I feel like we spotted the Internationals’ best team [Day and Scott] two holes and they still couldn't beat us. Just saying.”

Otherwise Mickelson’s play was inspired and he demonstrated why the U.S. team lobbied Haas to make him what many considered a “players’ pick.”

“Jay kind of gave me the freedom to just be me and sometimes I say and do some dumb stuff, and sometimes I can help some guys lighten the tension because we all feel pressure,” said Mickelson, who routed Charl Schwartzel, 5 and 4, in the singles session to improve to 3-0-1 for the week.