INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - It has been a sub-par year by Phil Mickelson’s own lofty standards, and some eyebrows were raised when he was selected for the Presidents Cup, but for U.S. skipper Jay Haas, the 45-year-old’s experience and “intangibles” were hard to overlook.
Haas sprang something of a surprise by using a captain’s pick on Mickelson last month, who was 30th in the Presidents Cup standings and had been viewed by many as a long shot after struggling for form for much of the past two years.
A captain’s pick in the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994, world number 23 Mickelson had played his way onto every U.S. team since, compiling a record of 20 wins, 16 losses and 11 matches halved.
Haas told a news conference on Tuesday the five-time major winner brought so much more to the team than his performance on the course and said that had been a key factor in his decision to overlook higher-ranked players.
”I think Phil, the intangibles that he brought to the team maybe put him over the top,“ Haas said at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. ”You could say... his play didn’t warrant being a consideration and all that.
“But I don’t know you can put a value on what he means to the players and the demeanor he brings into the team room.”
The United States have dominated the Presidents Cup, winning eight times in 10 editions, while the International team’s only success came in 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
The teams battled to a tie in South Africa in 2013.
Mickelson, who has not won on the PGA Tour since the British Open two years ago, was a popular choice within the entire U.S. set-up, said Haas, who is captaining the team for the first time.
“I would say that across the board, the players were all-in when we were texting them and talking to them. The captains, certainly, were all about Phil,” he added.
“I guess the way I’ve been answering, ‘why did you not pick such and such a player and this player and that?’ I don’t think there were any negatives to any of the players that we passed over.”
Mickelson said he had been touched by the support he had received from his team mates.
“That meant more to me than anything and I‘m appreciative of the chance to have felt how that feels to be wanted by the other players, and it was very emotional for me when I found out,” he told a news conference.
“And it makes me just want to play hard and do anything I can to help us succeed.”
One of the players overlooked in favor of Mickelson was J.B. Holmes, but the big-hitting 33-year-old was drafted in at the last minute after Jim Furyk withdrew due to a wrist injury.
”I think ultimately being No. 12 on the list, it was hard to pass him up initially,“ said Haas. ”And then certainly his last couple events, BMW finishing fourth I think and sixth at The Tour Championship, I think that pretty much answered any questions there.
”As Jim Furyk said, we’ve certainly gotten younger and longer, and this course looks good to his eye, I believe.
“This time last week, he wasn’t on the team, so he’s excited.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly