Mickelson's jibe at McIlroy can't redress the odds
USA heavily outgunned by strongest team in Euro history
SINCE his arrival in Scotland on Monday, US captain Tom Watson has faced questions about which European, World No 1 Rory McIlroy or the talismanic Ian Poulter, did he consider the biggest scalp for his players.
He nominated Poulter, suggesting "with his record as an 80pc winner over the matches he's played. . . we'd like to reduce that."
However, Phil Mickelson's stinging jab at McIlroy yesterday revealed that the Ulsterman IS the US team's primary target.
Asked if the dominant performance on the first two days in Medinah two years ago gave lie to the suggestion that America's finest can't play together, Mickelson replied: "Well, not only are we able to play together, we don't litigate against each other and that's a real plus."
No members of the European team are litigating against each other, of course. McIlroy is suing his former agent, Horizon; and Graeme McDowell, as a client of the Dublin Management Company, was drawn into the proceedings.
Might Lefty have been joking or merely having a pop back at McIlroy for that "in the final holes of his career" remark before the recent Tour Championship? Are we really expected to believe the most experienced member of the US team and one of the most intelligent men on tour is capable of such ham-fisted buffoonery?
Watson earlier eulogised Mickelson as a leader in the locker-room, saying: "He's the guy that talks smack. . . the way you're supposed to talk in the locker room. . . and he gets people talking back to him. That's what you have to do. It's a cauldron of pressure."
Mickelson's remark would get McIlroy's attention, if not pressure him.
Only Paul McGinley's team is jam-packed with leaders to back him up if the Ulsterman falters - it's the strongest ever to represent Europe.
Backing up McIlroy are US Open winner Martin Kaymer, two recent US Open champions in Justin Rose and McDowell, plus World No 3 and No 4, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson - and that's before you get to Poulter.
That doesn't mean they are a shoo-in at Gleneagles.
The US have class in off-colour Mickelson, passion in Keegan Bradley, huge potential in Rickie Fowler, hard-bitten experience in Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson and, potentially, all or nothing from Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Yet run your eye down our profile of the 24 Ryder Cup protagonists and it's clear: the US are heavily outgunned.
Perhaps the time was right to throw a little dust in the eye.