GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - A relaxed Phil Mickelson had his audience rolling in the aisles on Wednesday as he discussed a variety of Ryder Cup topics including an issue involving European team mates Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
The man described by captain Tom Watson as the U.S. team’s cheerleader, the five-times major winner could not resist a cheeky jibe at McIlroy who is in the middle of a legal row with former management group Horizon, a camp that McDowell still belongs to.
Asked by a reporter about the U.S. team’s supposed inability to gel as a unit after winning only two of the last nine Ryder Cups, Mickelson replied: “Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don’t litigate against each other.
“That’s a real plus, I feel, heading into this week,” he said to roars of laughter before quickly adding: “I couldn’t resist. Sorry. Go ahead.”
Mickelson took another reporter to task when it was suggested his 45 percent winning record from nine previous Ryder Cup appearances was “the only blot” on an excellent resume.
“Are you always this half-empty?,” replied the 44-year-old Californian to more howls of laughter. “Is that how you look at things? Because we’re more optimistic here.
“It doesn’t take much to improve my winning percentage, I’ll say that, but I’ve got a good partner that obviously I’m going to play again with Keegan (Bradley).
“I don’t think I’m letting go of any secrets here. We seem to have a good partnership and he brings out some of my best golf and I’m very optimistic that I can improve on my record.”
Mickelson and Bradley formed an excellent pairing in Medinah two years ago, winning all three of their matches including a 7 & 6 rout of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in the second-day foursomes.
“As I look back over my career it’s the Ryder Cups and the team events that I’ve been on that really provide the great memories, the great experiences and the accomplishments that I like to reflect back on,” said the popular left-hander.
“To be on this team is a great honor and privilege. I’m excited to play here in Scotland where we’ve been treated so wonderfully and the people here are so nice and where the game has really kind of taken root.”
Earlier in the day, Watson spoke of Mickelson’s unique behind the scenes influence on the U.S. team.
“Phil has been just a wonderful man in the locker room through the Ryder Cups,” said Watson. “I’ve talked to all the captains of the last four, maybe five, Ryder Cups and Phil’s been there and he’s a leader.
“There’s banter going back and forth and there’s always one guy, maybe two guys, who carry it, and they get everybody kind of lightened up — that’s the role Phil is playing.”
Mickelson was equally praiseworthy of eight-times major champion Watson’s captaincy skills.
“I’m very honored I have the opportunity to play with him, play for him and learn from him,” said the world number 11.
“I’m learning from Tom Watson this week. We’re very lucky as players to have this time with him.”
Editing by Justin Palmer