Phil Mickelson went into last week’s PGA Championship one place outside the US Ryder Cup automatic qualifying spots. Not wanting to rely on a pick from US captain Tom Watson, the American was determined to make the team on merit.
After four rounds at Valhalla, he did just that, finishing second behind Rory McIlroy after a five-under-par final round 66.
Tom Watson couldn’t be happier to have the nine-time Ryder Cup veteran in his squad travelling to Gleneagles for next month’s match.
“That was wonderful. I love Phil,” said Watson, an eight-time major champion.
"What he did was wonderful." - Tom Watson
“A lot of times you don't know what you're going to get. It's like that old box of chocolates thing. You never know what you're going to get with Phil.
“But you know one thing: it's going to be exciting and, many times, it's going to be spectacular. What he did was wonderful.”
One thing that impressed Watson in particular was the drive the five-time major champion displayed during the PGA Championship, on and off the course.
“I tell you what confirmed to me that he's in it for real, absolute real, was the fact that you saw him on TV at 9:30 in the morning hitting balls with Butch at the back of the range,” said the 64-year-old.
“He said he might have tired out at the end of the round and I thought of that. I said, ‘Man, you were out there for an hour hitting balls at 9:30 in the morning. I mean, you're going to wear yourself out. You’re not that young anymore’.
“But he told me, ‘Captain, I'm going to make this team so you can have another pick. I don't want you to pick me. I want to make the team outright.’ And he did in spades and he did it well.”
Tom Watson wants form players for Ryder Cup
Already a Ryder Cup winning captain in 1993, Tom Watson knows exactly what type of players his US Ryder Cup team needs: golfers who are playing well right at this moment, heading into Gleneagles with momentum.
“Again, I get back to the fact that you want players playing on the upswing when they are playing,” said Watson.
Phil Mickelson is one man who fits that description. By his own high standards, the world No.9 was having a quiet year. However, something sparked in the American’s game midway through the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and his form has picked up dramatically.
"That's what I'm looking for." - Tom Watson
In his last six rounds the 44-year-old has gone 69, 62, 69, 67, 67, 66, a combined 24-under-par. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t gone unnoticed by Tom Watson.
“Phil has had not a very good year, no top tens until this week,” said Tom Watson. “Then all of a sudden, boom, here he is in a major championship, and almost won it. That's what I'm looking for.”