OK then, the case against Phil Mickelson, and to pick up on Skydogs comment that I'd have to have to have "some pretty negative Phil bias".
In the first case I think I do have some of that bias, but its ranged against him on a different level. We tend to bristle at the way he presents himself as Mr America, the clean living, great family guy you all should want to be. We think there's something intrinsically phoney about Phil. Do you remember the Whacky Races/ Penelope Pitstop. Well there was a character in one of those cars called 'Peter Perfect'. I think we prefer our heroes to be a bit darker and there is something just too stage managed about Phil. I also think we like to feel we're too smart to get taken in by this carefully cultivated all American image and its only something Americans would fall for. The problem with that observation of course is that we did exactly the same over some half decent occasional footballer and full-time celebrity called David Beckham (albeit there were plenty who sneered at him too). So I bristle a little bit at Phil Mickelson who i suspect of being a bit phoney and soft at the coal face of delivery. The sort of guy who says one thing to appease people because he knows what they want to hear, but then does another etc
So having cleared that up a bit, I'm going to move straight to Medinah. Mickelson enjoyed his finest cup since his debut in 1995. Indeed, it was only his second winning appearence. At Medinah, it was what he said after day 1 that caught my attention. I can't quote it verbatim but it was words to the effect of;
this has been a real boost for me playing alongside these new, hungry, brave, kids who play exciting golf. Perhaps the roles are changing and we should be supporting them. He also spoke about how he'd been given a new lease of life by them, and felt revitalised
It was intended as a complement for Keegan Bradley, but what is he really saying. Or perhaps I should ask, what is he really admitting? It sounded to me as if he were acknowledging that he'd only been going through the motions and not really caring too much. If that's harsh (and I think it probably is) what I suspect he's been guilty of is not giving the archetypal 110%
The Ryder Cup is his chance to represent his country rather than himself. It comes round every two years. He should be be hungry for it. He shouldn't need motivating. When he first played in the cup (1995) it might have meant something to him? he went 3-0-0. It wasn't until Keegan Bradley was able to act as his crutch, that he returned a winning percentage again. His personal record in the seven cups bookended by these two is 0-4-3. Remember America has to win.
It's worth looking at his sequence actually breaking it at 2004
Won, Drew, Drew, Drew
Lost, Lost, Lost, Lost, Won
Before 2004 he'd never returned a losing match, after 2004 he never returned a winning one (until Keegan bailed him out). It's synmptomatic again of player whose heart isn't in the effort any more. His performance has dropped, at a time when it actually improved in competition play
Tigerists can at least point to this singles record and say there's a role for him in this area provided they could find a fourball partner. Phils fans can't even do that. He's consistent, I'll grant them that, but he's a consistent loser in Ryder Cups
Foursomes - 4-5-4 = 46%
Fourballs - 6-8-2 = 43%
Singles - 4-5-0 = 44%
Remember America needs players to post 50%+ to win this. Phil Mickelson has played nine Ryder Cups and accomplished this feat twice. He didn't even manage it on the two winning teams he's played on either suggesting that he isn't a totemic player, the sorts of which Europe has built teams around
Perhaps the most damning evidence though lies in this idea of him being soft.
The answer is 1997, Darren Clarke. The question is what?
"who is the only European player that Phil Mickelson has beaten in Ryder Cup singles, in Europe".
You perhaps could be forgiven for not being able to dredge the answer up from 17 years ago. I think Phil likes to be popular. He plays better, and feels better about himself when he senses people approve of him,nay, when he senses they adore him perhaps even? So much of brand Mickelson has been built around being popular. Is there a deep rooted insecurity in there? who knows, but this is Ryder Cup and this is Europe. It's the home ground of the hostile opposition and he represents the unpopular. How players respond away from their home comforts tells us quite a bit about their inner strength and depth of character. Do they go Poulterish and stand there and trade? or do they sulk and meekly surrender in the absence of love?
Mickelson's record away from the United States is shocking
In America 10-8-2 = 55%
In Europe 4-10-4 = 33%
Now I think those figures are correct, but if they aren't, they won't be badly wrong.
That's an alarming discrepancy, and its built up over enough time now for us to think there's a story behind it.
Why would you countenance selecting someone who has managed just four wins since 1997 on opposition soil? It's actually even worse if you restrict the analysis to the 'high Phil' stage of his career (the post 2004 period)
1-7-1 = 16.6%
This is a player going through the motions isn't it with no real appetite for the battle anymore? If he had, he could have gone to Gleneagles with his prospective partner. He could have demonstrated by deed rather than guff, just how excited he was by the new young players, and how committed he was to team America. Phil played Aberdeen. He could have cemented his place as a senior statesmen of the team and demonstrated the fact that he was a credible role model to the younger players. He could have.... well shown the same level of commitment as Jim Furyk did (who unlike Phil was nailed on to qualify). Not only that, he could really have done some quality work with Bradley. They could have done the odds and even holes working out who might like to tee of which, they could have discussed their strategies for each hole, and experimented. But Phil didn't show, despite being less then 2 hours drive away.
Doubtless he'll tell his pre-cup press conferences how patriotic he is, and how much the RC means to him, (he knows it resonates with his fan base) but its time to judge him on what he does, and see through what he says
Fine competition player that is, a great one even, but RC hasn't so far proven to be his stage. It brings out other qualities in a player and involves drawing on things I'm not sure Phil has in his locker. All the evidence of Mickelsons record points to him not being the answer, and although candidates might be slim on the ground, a hungry long hitter with attitude represents the more formidable opponent.