[PHOTO: Jamie Squire]
Serving as captain of the US Ryder Cup team promised to be one of the highlights of Phil Mickelson’s life and career. And to have that role in 2025 at Bethpage Black, where the New York fans have rabidly supported Lefty for decades, it was going to be something for us all to savour.
It’s not happening, of course, because Mickelson chose to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in 2022 and has burned so many bridges and relationships that the five-time major winner and 12-time Ryder Cup player likely will now always view the Ryder Cup forlornly from afar, if at all.
Unlike Swede Henrik Stenson holding faint hope to still be Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for 2023, despite his jump to LIV (he was replaced by Luke Donald), Mickelson, 53, didn’t hold any illusions that everything would be just fine. And on Wednesday, he assessed that clearer than ever in an interview on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show”.
“I’ve had 12, 13 opportunities to be a part of the Ryder Cup – 12 as a player, one as a vice-captain – and I’ve loved every minute of it and cherish those moments and those life experiences,” Mickelson said. “I don’t feel I’m the right guy to be involved with the team because I’m a very divisive character right now, if you will. And I understand that [for] the players on the PGA Tour, there’s a lot of hostilities towards me, and I don’t feel I’d be the best leader for them going forward.
“I think that as a Ryder Cup captain, you have to be kind of a unifier and have these relationships solidified and somebody that you want to follow. And right now, I’ve been very divisive, and I’m OK with that. I knew that was going to be the case. I knew that it was going to take a couple of years and that I was going to take a lot of hits and a lot of divisiveness.”
For that divisiveness, look no further than the past comments about Mickelson by Fred Couples, who has vice-captained three Ryder Cup teams and captained three winning Presidents Cup squads. Last April, Couples – an outspoken critic of players who went to LIV – called Mickelson a “nutbag”. Added Couples at the time, “If you’re giving Phil Mickelson $200 million at age 52 to shoot 74 and 75, God bless you.”
With Mickelson out as captain for Bethpage, the likeliest choice to lead the US is Tiger Woods, who won the 2002 US Open on the Black course there and would debut as the leader for the Americans after going 3-0 in the role in the Presidents Cup. Donald has already signed up for a second stint at leading Europe after his side handily beat the Americans in Italy.