The standoff between Ryder Cup stalwart Phil Mickelson and embattled captain Tom Watson ensured that — at least on this side of the Atlantic — the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles will likely be remembered for two things: drama and dysfunction.
In an interview with Cameron Morfit of Golf Magazine, however, Mickelson’s friend and longtime playing partner Keegan Bradley said that while the duo was surprised to learn they had been benched on Saturday, Lefty remained committed to the team and to Watson.
Were you a little peeved at Watson? After all, you still had–and have–an impressive 4-1-0 record partnering with Mickelson.
We were surprised we weren’t playing, but Phil is a team player, and so am I. So we were going to go out that afternoon and cheer on our teammates as hard as we could. I spent most of my time with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker to see if I could give them a little boost.
Did you feel like once Watson lost Phil, he lost the team?
I don’t think he ever lost Phil. I think Phil is probably the most passionate player we have—he wants to win more than anybody. He was going to do anything he possibly could to win his matches and help the other guys win theirs, so at no point did he lose Phil.
That’s a bit hard to swallow, given the press conference afterward.
Well, I don’t think he lost Phil.
During the losers’ press conference on Sunday following Team USA’s 16.5 to 11.5 loss to Team Europe, Mickelson suggested that Watson’s departure from Captain Paul Azinger’s winning strategy in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla could share the blame for the team’s failure to capture the cup for the third time in a row.
“We had a great formula in ’08,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know why we strayed. I don’t know why we don’t go back. What Zinger did was great.”
The following month, ESPN’s Bob Harig reported that Mickelson’s comments came in response to Watson ripping into his players at a team meeting on Saturday night. Watson later apologized in an open letter.
Bradley, for his part, seems to have retained a laser-like focus on ending Team USA’s Ryder Cup drought at Hazeltine in 2016. Asked what he’d like to accomplish by the time he turns 30, the 28-year-old Bradley responded: “I’d like to win the Ryder Cup.”