Saturday 18 November 2017

Old foes Phil and Tiger united in desire for victory

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Photo: Getty
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Photo: Getty
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods don't get on? Forget it.

They've been love-bombing (pun intended) each other for months over this Ryder Cup.

Whatever rivalry and personality differences kept them apart during Tiger's peak years, which coincided with a chunk of Mickelson's career, have been buried in the cause of Team USA at Hazeltine National.

And if you find that hard to accept, just ask Phil.

Yesterday he was thrown a seemingly gentle, but loaded curve-ball question: "Davis (Love III) mentioned yesterday that you and Tiger are his leaders. Has it been fun working with Tiger in his new assistant captain's role?"

In the mind of cynical hacks, what was really being asked was: "don't you guys hate each other? Please tell us you do."

Phil did not flinch. "It's been great. The last few weeks, we've been talking on the phone multiple times a day.

"It's been really exciting for us because we've been on so many teams for so many years, and to have this much input and involvement in the process, the way Davis has implemented everybody's input, the way he's brought everybody together and their ideas, has been truly an inclusive process, and it's been fun for Tiger and I to be a part of something like that."

Credit to Mickelson. He's a great ambassador for the game, a great player, and has never needed a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup in 10 consecutive appearances.

But do not be fooled. Phil knows how to throw a captain under the bus. He did it with Tom Watson two years ago, and to a degree, with Hal Sutton, the 2004 USA captain, yesterday.

The difference a captain can make is "unbelievable" in Mickelson's opinion.

"It all starts with the captain. That's the whole foundation of the team," he said.

"But you play how you prepare. And in Major championships, when we win or play well, it's because we prepared properly for those events.

"And in a Ryder Cup, you have to prepare properly for the event."

Back in '04 Hal Sutton gave Tiger and Phil just two days' notice that they would play together in foursomes.

They played totally different golf balls and Mickelson spent long hours trying to get used to Tiger's ball instead tuning up his own game in his regular fashion.

"In the history of my career, I have never ball-tested two days prior to a Major," said Mickelson.

"That's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail, and we failed monumentally, absolutely.

"But to say, 'you just need to play better,' that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare."

Irish Independent

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