By Mark Lamport-Stokes
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) – Phil Mickelson is known for having a theory about almost anything and he says that the United States have been handicapped at the Ryder Cup over the last two decades by poor preparation.
With the American players very rarely consulted by their captains about key decisions, the five-times major champion firmly believes that the team has been set up to fail when instead they could have been “put in a position to succeed”.
This week at Hazeltine the U.S. will bid to end a run of eight losses to Europe in the past 10 editions and Mickelson is excited about the prospect of a new chapter being established under captain Davis Love III with the players fully engaged.
“This is the foundation week for us,” Mickelson, who has competed in 10 Ryder Cups, told reporters on Wednesday before heading off for team practice with Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker.
“This is the week where all the past captains, past vice-captains, PGA of America officials, caddies, have had involvement in the decision-making process.
“And from this, we’ll work forward and keep continuity into 2018 and from that we’ll build on in 2020.”
Mickelson had scathingly criticized the tactics of 2014 captain Tom Watson immediately after the U.S. slumped to a crushing five-point loss to Europe at Gleneagles, saying that the players had not been “invested in the process”.
But that has all changed with Love at the helm and he has followed the lead set by 2008 skipper Paul Azinger, who was the most recent U.S. captain to achieve Cup success using a “pod” system whereby players were split into groups of four who practized and played together.
“When you look back on what the difference is … when players are put in a position to succeed, more often than not they tend to succeed, and when they are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail,” said Mickelson.
“This is a year where we feel as though Captain Love has been putting us in a position to succeed. He’s taken input from all parties. He’s making decisions that have allowed us to prepare our best and play our best, and I believe that we will play our best.
“Now we are playing a very strong European Team and I don’t know what that means results-wise, but our best golf will come out this week and that’s our goal.”
Mickelson played a pivotal role in the 11-man task force created by the PGA of America after the 2014 Ryder Cup to identify how the U.S. could compete more successfully.
(Editing by Larry Fine)