Sunday, October 5

Captain Watson Rallied Players—Against Him

BEFORE PHIL MICKELSON THREW U.S. RYDER CUP captain Tom Watson under the bus, Captain Watson told his 12 players they stunk at foursomes and ridiculed their gift to him, according to an ESPN story by Bob Harig.

At the Sunday evening press conference following another American Ryder Cup defeat, Mickelson made comments that indirectly criticized Watson's captaincy. Some in the media said Phil was wrong to publicly diss his captain. (I did.) Not only was it an all-time awkward moment at a major golf press gathering, it seemed to focus most of the blame on the 65-year-old golf legend during his second tour as Ryder Cup captain.

The story doesn't end there as we learned from Harig's late Friday report.

Mickelson's Sunday comments were preceded by an unsavory Saturday night meeting for Team USA. About 40 people were gathered in the U.S. team room (a hotel ballroom at Gleneagles). They included Captain Watson, his vice captains, the 12 players and their wives or girl friends, caddies, a few PGA staff members and some hotel staff. The United States trailed Europe 10-6 after a poor showing in afternoon foursomes.

Harig's reporting on what happened on Saturday night was based on four anonymous sources.

"You stink at foursomes," Watson said, according to Harig's sources.

Watson praised American rookies Patrick Reid and Jordan Spieth for their play. He then "ridiculed" members of the European team as he discussed the Sunday singles pairings. When Watson was presented a replica of the Ryder Cup trophy signed by all his players, he said "the gift meant nothing to him," reported Harig, "if the players didn't get the real Ryder Cup on Sunday."

"That's almost verbatim. He said it basically means nothing to me," said one source.

Another source said, "It was fairly shocking that he treated this thoughtful gift with such disdain."

"You could have heard a pin drop in that room," said one of the sources. "He was pissed. It all went from there."

Afterward U.S. vice captains Andy North, Raymond Floyd and Steve Stricker, as well as the 12 players, were given the opportunity to speak. Several team members did. Mickelson spoke last.

"Phil went player by player and told a story about each one," one source said. "It changed the tenor of the room from completely negative and heads down to 'Let's give this a go tomorrow.' He gave almost 180 degrees difference than what Tom did."

Harig also reported this: "According to three witnesses, Watson greeted several of the singles losers Sunday, including [Keegan] Bradley, by telling them they should have played better."

From this glimpse into the U.S. team room, two things are apparent:

1. Captain Watson's old-school tactics did not spur on his players. Just the opposite.

2. Phil Mickelson's press room comments, for which Lefty took heat (including from me), were not just the words of a perennial Ryder Cup loser assigning blame to his most recent captain.

Tom Watson's approach clearly had a detrimental effect on his team.

On Saturday, the U.S. captain acknowledged mistakes and accepted responsibility in "An Open Letter from Tom Watson" at PGA.com.

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