MINNEAPOLIS – Early on Wednesday Phil Mickelson was asked how much impact a captain can have on the outcome of a Ryder Cup, and the example he used did not paint a flattering picture of Hal Sutton, the 2004 U.S. captain.
Sutton paired Mickelson and Tiger Woods in ’04 at Oakland Hills, a last-minute decision that forced Lefty to learn how to play Woods’ high-spin golf ball and didn’t give him enough time to prepare.
“That's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely,” Mickelson said. “To say, well, you just need to play better; that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Sutton, who was playing in the Captain’s Challenge at nearby Minneapolis Golf Club, had a different take on the ’04 matches which the U.S. lost, 18 ½ to 9 ½.
“The thing the Ryder Cup doesn’t need is drama. It creates enough drama on its own. Phil created a lot of drama that week, if we remember, because he switched his clubs and his ball prior to that week,” Sutton told GolfChannel.com, pointing out that Mickelson played a Callaway driver and metal woods for just the second time in competition at the ’04 matches.
“It was very self-serving for him to do that prior to the Ryder Cup in 2004. So, if he needs me to shoulder the blame for his poor play, I can do that.”
Sutton, who quit the game for five years after the ’04 matches because of the fallout from the U.S. loss, was among a group of former captains in the American team room Tuesday night and seemed surprised by Mickelson’s comments.
“There’s a lot of controversy that follows Phil everywhere, I’ll leave it at that,” Sutton said. “He wasn’t even prepared with the ball that he brought to the tournament, much less Tiger’s. So, I think he needs to search his own soul a little bit.”
Mickelson was using the ’04 pairing of himself and Woods as an example of the types of situations the U.S. team and captain Davis Love III is trying to avoid this week.
He also tried to soften his criticism of Sutton, telling reporters, “I actually loved how decisive captain Sutton was. I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive. Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work and could have had some success.”