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My 2014 moment: Ryder Cup news conference

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(Editor's note: This is part of a series in which staff reveal their favorite or personal moments of 2014.)

If only we would have known in advance. 

Maybe there could have been an 11th-hour deal struck to get the news conference simulcasted on MTV as part of some kind of Grow the Game initiative.

This is what happens when millionaire athletes stop being polite, and start getting real.

The only drawback is that Phil Mickelson might have unburdened himself in one of those confessional rooms, and we might never have seen the look on Hunter Mahan’s face.

Mickelson’s post-Ryder Cup campaign against Tom Watson, in specific, and the PGA of America, in general, actually began before the team sat down in the media center. Before the closing ceremonies and not long after the European celebration began, Mickelson planted the seeds in an interview with Golf Channel’s Steve Sands for what soon would follow.

Mickelson was the only one on that stage Sunday afternoon - save for maybe Jim Furyk, who was ultimately involved against his own will - with enough cache to call out the 65-year-old, six-time major winner.

I implore you to watch it all again below … 

… but if you don’t have the spare 30 minutes, the four best parts of this remarkably awkward and captivating half hour are as follows:

1. Watson being asked to respond to Mickelson openly criticizing his leadership, then having to deflect the barbs as merely a “difference of opinion,” trying to pretend as if his head wasn’t on fire.

2. Mickelson, who walked into the news conference with a clear agenda, proceeding to play dumb about exactly what he was doing, telling a reporter, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when it was suggested he was ripping apart Watson in public.

3. Mahan staring blankly forward, a true deer in the headlights, moving once in a while to contort his facial muscles and study the stitching of his jacket.

4. And Furyk, summing up the entire situation: ““What's the winning formula? What's the difference year-in, year-out? If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this s--- a long time ago.”

Though poor Mahan proved the focus of a few funny memes, it was Mickelson’s laughable attempt to walk back his own comments, while at the same time continuing to tear into Watson and the PGA process that had wedded him to the 2014 team, that was, well, laughable.

As much as it was the losing, and the mistrust, and the general crustiness of the captain, what made that news conference so compelling was the arrangement. When, if ever, do you see 13 people interviewed at once? What happened Sunday at Gleneagles was a unique occurrence because it was born of unique circumstances. Mickelson chiding Watson’s leadership to one reporter was juicy at the time in an "inside baseball" kind of way, but to openly rip Watson in front of a group of reporters, the entire team and Watson himself, that was explicit. 

In a way, Mickelson got away clean. His fans still love him, and his detractors still don’t. There was no real change in the status quo.

And that's why it was Watson who ultimately lost both the Ryder Cup and some part of his own mystique. In 2009 at the Open Championship, Watson was the then-59-year-old legend making one last run at glory. No one was rooting for Stewart Cink, other than his wife and children.

Now, five years later, we’re still watching MasterCard commercials of Watson surprising fans at the driving range and derisively pronouncing “Snee-deker” and something seems different. Something did change. 

In the end, other than Ted Bishop, it was Watson who lost the most.