Van Cynical Mailbag: Why Was Phil Mickelson Picked for the Presidents Cup?

September 9, 2015

If I had two wild-card picks, I’d take Starsky (but not Hutch) and Hooch (but definitely not Turner).

Jay Haas, captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team, surprised some observers by adding Phil Mickelson to his squad when he announced his two selections Tuesday.

You remember Phil. He last won a tournament a little more than two years ago and in the last two seasons, has managed all of four top-10 finishes.

This year, Phil ranks 182nd in greens hit in regulation and 187th in proximity to the pin, an awful display of ballstriking for a guy with 42 wins.

Yet despite those numbers, he somehow seemed like a better pick than Charley Hoffman, third-place finisher at Deutsche Bank and No. 13 on the points list; Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, J.B. Holmes or any of the 19 players who finished higher on the points list than Phil.

Yes, Phil has teed it up in the last 10 Presidents Cups. He walks in Tour history.

Interesting pick, Capt. Haas.

Let’s go to the Van Cynical Mailbag…

Van Cynical, Just torch Jay Haas for ignoring the obvious and leaving Koepka off the team.—Brian Rosenwald via Twitter

As Alex Trebec likes to say, “In the form of a question, please!” I agree, BriRo, that I wouldn’t have made Phil a pick. I’m not sure Koepka was the obvious other choice, especially since he did a Jordan Spieth and missed the cuts in both the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship (after a strong three-week run before that). I could make a case for Hoffman and Snedeker and even Holmes, too, as well as Koepka.

Hey, Sicklemania, Why did Jay Haas pick Phil? The future is with young guns like Koepka. Reward the old man with an assistant captaincy.—David Troyan via Twitter

Officially, Haas said the other players on the team and the vice captains all wanted Phil. Maybe this is like adding Hank Aaron to an All-Star team late in his career when he no longer really deserved it. Or maybe this was a Tour panicking about having a TV show in Korea during football season, without Tiger, Rory or Phil and thus without ratings. Or maybe it’s true, the rest of the team loves having Phil the Clubhouse Lawyer around. He is an uplifting, fun, positive force. Still, I’d take a good putter—like Snedeker—before Phil in this situation.

Hey, G-Unit, How does Phil respond to being a Prez Cup pick? Does this give him the inspiration to play well in Korea and help get his game back on track?—Bustinpar via Twitter

Gee, I didn’t realize he needed inspiration to play well, Busty. Those last three major championships didn’t fire him up? Phil has had all year to get his game on track. And all of 2014, too. Two years, no wins, and barely even a close call. That’s not to say Phil can’t star in the Prez Cup. He can make a 7 and lose only one hole in the process. And he’ll have a partner in the team matches. But if you’re basing your picks on who has played well over the summer, not who has played well over a career or who has potential to play well, Phil wasn’t your guy.

Vans, What did you think of the Presidents Cup picks?—Elaine via Twitter

Bill Haas, at No. 11 on the points list, was a slam dunk. Phil, at No. 30, was a reach. It would’ve been a good time to think long-term and get some younger guys who earned it some experience before the next Ryder Cup, whether it be Koepka, Holmes, Hoffman, Horschel or Snedeker. Phil may play really well but the U.S. missed a chance to develop some talent in the bullpen.

Van Cynical, Isn’t one solution to the World Rankings mess to keep system as is but to release rankings less regularly?—Lytham via Twitter

That’s like saying the solution to the Nicholas Cage problem is for Nicholas Cage to appear in fewer movies. No, wait, that one actually works. You’re on to something there, Lytham, but fewer releases doesn’t solve what’s wrong with the world rankings. Plus, somebody, somewhere, will figure out the points each week, anyway. That cat is permanently out of the bag. So it’s not a solution.

Vans, How hard are you laboring (see what I did there?) to find a way that, on paper, the Internationals can win the Prez Cup?—Brian Bailey via Twitter

I’m not laboring at all. That is Nick Price’s problem. You have to remember that this is match play, not stroke play. You don’t have to shoot low, you just have to beat the one guy (or one duo) that you’re playing. It’s like outrunning a grizzly bear. You don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than your soon-to-be late buddy. Anything is possible in match play, Bailbondsman. I would not underrate Anirban Lahiri, Hideki Matsuyama or Danny Lee. They’re legit.

Van Wisconsinite, Did you get a final tally on broken ankles at Whistling Straits? Nasty terrain for spectators.—Burt Litwin via Twitter

I did not, Litwit. I was afraid I couldn’t make it to the medical tent without blowing out my last remaining lateral meniscus.

Van the Man, What percent chance that Tiger plays in next year’s Ryder Cup?—Scott Endres via Twitter

Davis Love is a member of the Friends Of Tiger Club. Also, Tiger seems to be on an upswing. I’ll say 65 percent chance that Tiger ends up on the team.

Van Cynical, Does anyone do more with less than my second-favorite cheesehead, Jerry Kelly?—Mr. Fairway via Twitter

You beg the question, Fairlawn, of who’s your fave cheesehead. Andy North? Don Iverson? Jim Gantner? Fighting Bob LaFollette? To agree with you would be to diminish Kelly’s record, which speaks for itself—three wins, $27 million in winnings. Is he an over-achiever? Maybe. Definitely an achiever.

Sickle, Do the elite tour players really care about the Olympics? Will they have a course to play in Brazil?—Andrew Polson via Twitter

The course is allegedly ready to go, Polecat. It’s hard to get a read on what Tour players really think about it. Who wouldn’t enjoy being part of the Olympic theater? It’s a glorious new stage for golfers. That said, I don’t think any of them are going to prepare for it like a major championship.

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