Phil Mickelson used the losing team’s press conference at Gleneagles to indirectly attack Tom Watson’s captaincy at the Ryder Cup - by praising the style of former captain Paul Azinger.
Mickelson mentioned briefly to US TV on the course that he thought Azinger had got it right in 2008 – and it didn’t go unnoticed.
The US lost the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles 16.5 - 11.5.
Phil Mickelson was surprisingly benched yesterday - along with star partner Keegan Bradley - as the US went down 3.5 - 0.5 in the foursomes for the second day running. Mickelson and Bradley have won four of their five Ryder Cup matches together.
“We had a great formula in '08,” he told US TV. “I don’t know why we strayed. I don’t know why we don’t go back. What Zinger did was great.”
Sitting a few seats along from his captain, Mickelson, clearly upset with the style of Watson this week, did not hold back in a toe-curling assessment.
Phil Mickelson - Azinger had 'game plan'
“There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process,” said Mickelson.
“He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who - when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod.”
He went on: “And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together, golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well. We had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf.”
“I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well.”
He added: “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”
One journalist asked Phil Mickelson whether his words were a “brutal” description of Watson’s captaincy.
Phil Mickelson defends 'brutal' assessment
“Oh, I'm sorry you're taking it that way,” said Mickelson. “I’m just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It's certainly… I don't understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going forward to bring our best golf out, and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.”
Watson had said he had involved all the players in his decision-making, something Mickelson strongly disputed.
“Nobody here was in any decision,” said Mickelson.
Defending himself – in front of his accuser – Watson stood by his captaincy style and said the winning Ryder Cup formula had nothing to do with “pods”.
“I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team,” said Watson, who did not appear to be surprised by the verbal volley from his most decorated team member.
“You know, it takes 12 players to win. It’s not pods. It’s 12 players. Yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with.
“I had a different philosophy than Paul. I decided not to go that way. But I did have most of them play in the practice rounds together who played most of the time in the matches. I think that was the proper thing to do. Yes, I did mix-and-match a little bit from there, but again, you have to go with the evolution of the playing of the match and see who is playing the best and who to play with whom, and that's what I did.”
On Twitter, David Duval described the press conference as “brutal” and told one Twitter user that he would take on the captaincy. “It’s a thankless job but yes I would do it,” he wrote.
Watson added: “(Mickelson) has a difference of opinion. That’s okay. My management philosophy is different than his.”
Paul Azinger has reportedly not ruled out taking on the job again in 2016.
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