Tim Rosaforte, who reported being in contact via text message with Phil Mickelson Saturday night of the Ryder Cup, writes in Golf World that Mickelson learned of his Saturday afternoon benching after warming up and via text message by Captain Tom Watson.
Granted, Jose Maria Olazabal had trouble communicating such things in 2012, but the idea that Mickelson wasn't worthy of an explanation or even prepared that he might be benched all day might explain what inspired Sunday's press conference comments.
Alan Shipnuck's assessment of Watson's work in contrast to that of Paul McGinley is less than gentle.
Watson made little effort to get to know his charges or do any team building beyond a few get-off-my-lawn speeches. He was a remote and disengaged figure in the run-up to the Cup, and once the competition began, he had little understanding of how his players were feeling, physically or emotionally. (It didn’t help that two of his vice captains -- Ray Floyd, 72, and Andy North, 64 -- are decades removed from playing the Tour and the third, Steve Stricker, 47, is now a part-timer.)
While Watson’s counterpart Paul McGinley, 47, was meticulously prepared, having spent years seeking the counsel of his players over long dinners and b.s. sessions on the range, Watson seemed to be making up his pairings willy-nilly. A series of botched decisions for the Friday-afternoon foursomes had a cascading effect that led him to bench his putative team leader, Phil Mickelson, and Bradley, the guy who could have been the team’s emotional juggernaut, for both Saturday sessions. (To that point they had teamed to go 4–1 in the Ryder Cup.) These proud major champions were understandably wounded by the slight, but according to a team insider, what left them more upset was the heartless way Watson delivered the news.
Shipnuck also writes about his inability to talk to PGA of America President Ted Bishop following the press conference regarding the selection process and shares this about Watson.
A veteran of multiple U.S. teams told me in the aftermath, “A lot of s--- went on behind the scenes that people don’t know about. It will all leak out eventually. People talk about Hal Sutton and Lanny Wadkins, but Watson is going to be remembered as 10 times worse.”
John Hawkins puts Mickelson's remarks into context and believes that long term the candidness will benefit the American side.
Not only does this apply to Watson, whose shortcomings as both a captain and communicator turned PGA of America president Ted Bishop’s outside-the-box experiment into a bust, but Mickelson himself. In offering such a candid and visible assessment of the 2014 captain, Philly Mick was roasted by several prominent voices for violating the very essence of appropriate team conduct.
What happens in the team room stays in the team room, or so we’re led to believe. The funny thing about media – some of us chastise guys like Mickelson for talking out of school, then lick up every last crumb, no matter how dirty.
Some of my favorite golf journalists, including Golf Channel teammates Rex Hoggard and Tim Rosaforte, have referred to the U.S. news conference as one of the most awkward moments in Ryder Cup history, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree. It was hard to watch and impossible not to, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps it was also necessary, or at the very least, a much-needed attempt to shake up a system that has produced lousy results for far too long. Bishop chose Watson himself. Why is there no committee for such an important appointment? As I wondered here a couple of weeks ago, why are the U.S. captains’ picks made almost a month before the actual matches – before the final two FedEx Cup playoff events?
Robert Lusetich calls Mickelson's comments "a graceless mutiny of one" and feels players should not need to be invested in the matches via gimmicks like a pod system.
Mickelson -- who always needs to be the smartest guy in the room -- recounted how great Paul Azinger was as captain because he got players "invested in the process."
I could stop right there and say, if you're not invested in the process anyway, then don't play. You're representing the United States, and if you can't get up for that does it matter who captains?
Mickelson went on to say Azinger's tactic of splitting the 12 players into three pods of four -- and giving them a lot of autonomy within those groupings -- was the key.
"He had a great game plan," Mickelson said. "We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula."
In other words, Phil likes to have his voice heard, and Tom Watson didn't listen.