Phil Mickelson’s Presidents Cup spot
” I wish we could pick twenty five guys. “
That was the quote from Jay Haas when speaking with Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte on Tuesday, minutes after announcing that his son Bill and Phil Mickelson would round out his team of twelve heading to South Korea to take on Nick Price’s International squad in golf’s less popular biennial team event, the Presidents Cup, and in all honesty, Haas probably could pick that many and not see much of a difference between them after he got past his top guys. Bill Haas finished 11th in the qualification standings, one place out of the automatic ten entries and as Alex Myers points out, Brandt Snedeker is the only American in Presidents Cup history to finish 11th and not get the call. That happened in 2011 when captain Fred Couples selected Tiger Woods, and funny enough, Bill Haas.
There’s really no arguing Haas’ selection. Based on the standings, he was the best available player and when you look at the history of the event, it’s pretty easy to see that other captains that aren’t related to Haas would have likely made the same choice, but the Mickelson selection has definitely raised a few eyebrows.
” Preparing to be outraged. “
That was my quote to Chris Solomon of No Laying Up just before the announcements were made. While I was legitimately upset by the news that Price went with Steven Bowditch and Sang-moon Bae over the king of past parallel, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, I wasn’t surprised and in truth, there isn’t a noticeable difference between those three players. My “outrage” was referring more to the American selections, simply because as I tweeted earlier in the day, I figured that Haas would go down the path that he did.
When I started to think about it though, and after hearing Haas talk about his selections, the Mickelson choice started to make some sense. For all the talk from people about why players like Brooks Koepka should have been picked for this team, and I was one of them, the truth is that there are compelling arguments to be made for a lot of players and at the end of it all, unless Haas decided to name himself as a playing captain, there probably wasn’t a bad decision to make. Koepka wouldn’t have been a bad pick. The same can be said for Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel, J.B. Holmes, Justin Thomas and a host of others that didn’t get the call. Bill Haas and Mickelson are not bad picks.
The list of reasons to pass on Mickelson is probably longer than the list to include him. His last win came over two years ago at the Open Championship, he’s had more missed cuts (7) than top-10 finishes (6) since that win, his match play record is decidedly average, he’s 30th in the qualification standings, and if you believe in getting younger players some experience, Mickelson doesn’t exactly fit the bill. But…
“ He is without question the leader of our team in the team room, on the golf course. The guys on the team were adamant that Phil is the guy. ”
I’ve never been in the team room, and while I’m sure Tom Watson would have a different opinion on Mickelson’s value in this area, if the players told Haas that they wanted Mickelson on the team, that must mean something. Maybe it’s the cash games that he organizes, maybe it’s the experience he has or maybe it’s that he counteracts all of Bubba’s negative energy, but whatever it is, the players made it very clear that Mickelson would have some kind of positive effect on the team. One of Mickelson’s complaints at Gleneagles was that the players felt like they were kept out of the loop, but in this instance, that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case. Getting the players more involved in the process, even if it’s just to get as many opinions as possible before making an informed decision, isn’t a bad thing. For whatever reason, the players want Mickelson there and even if we can’t point to anything tangible and defined to explain the logic, what matters is that the logic exists.
One other thing to keep in mind too is that even though many, myself included, think that the Presidents Cup is really just a warmup for the Ryder Cup, that’s not how someone in Jay Haas’ position can look at this. Despite their complete ineptitude in recent Ryder Cups, the Americans have an 8-1-1 record in this event and Haas doesn’t want to join Jack Nicklaus as the only captains to lose to the Internationals and since it’s the PGA Tour and not the PGA of America that run this event, there’s no real connection to the Ryder Cup. It’s a completely separate event run by a completely separate group of people who both want to win in the moment.
Was Phil Mickelson the best guy to pick to accomplish that goal? I don’t think he was, but the people that matter in this instance do. How much did Phil’s stature in the game play into the decision? It certainly didn’t hurt I’m sure, but if they were going purely on that alone, you’d think that Tiger would be heading to Korea either in place of Mickelson or Haas. TV ratings? I highly doubt that Haas thought about that even once, especially with the thirteen hour time difference between Korea and the east coast. If you’re going purely on what you see on paper, you’d have a hard time arguing that the International side was better than the Americans, and whether Mickelson is there or not doesn’t change that fact one iota.
Even though he’s probably not the pick I would have made, I get why Phil Mickelson made the team.