Phil Mickelson is in every sense a Ryder Cup veteran—when he tees it up at Medinah later this week he’ll be making his ninth Ryder Cup appearance. Unfortunately for the U.S., despite Phil’s talents and aggressive style of play, he has a lousy Ryder Cup record of just 11-17-6. He’s performed particularly poorly in the team events (7-13-6) and is batting just .500 in singles. So, is there reason to believe that this year will be different? I think so. Here are my five reasons why Phil will tear up Medinah and the Euros.
1) Phil is hot at the moment—Almost every Ryder Cup captain likes to go with the hot hand, and Phil is certainly hot at the moment. After a relatively poor season in which Phil won only a single tournament, he turned it on during the FedEx Cup playoffs (finishing fifth overall). Mickelson shot seven consecutive rounds of 68 or lower throughout the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships en route to finishes of T4 and T2 respectively. During this streak Mickelson earned over $1 million—he’s clearly returned to form just in time.
2) The crowd is in his corner—Phil is, without a doubt, the U.S. player whom the fans will get behind the most. In major events (see the 2002 U.S. Open, for example) the crowd has literally carried Phil around the course. He’ll feed off of this energy, and his opponents will have to deal with the noise and the cheers every time Phil pulls out one of his tricks.
3) He’s a different player now—Phil’s career record in the Ryder Cup is indicative of a player who has a hard time dealing with the extreme pressure cooker that is the Ryder Cup. We saw this with Phil, a lot, earlier in his career with regards to major championships as well. Phil has since shaken the major monkey, and it’s done a ton for his confidence and his ability to perform under the most intense pressure. I’d expect this to be his Ryder Cup coming out party, much like the 2004 Masters was for Phil in the majors.
4) Medinah’s length—At 7,658 yards, Medinah is going to be playing long. Like way long. Phil can bomb it with the best of them, and his high ball flight will help him stop the ball near the hole more effectively than many of the other players—especially the Euros who are used to playing in the wind. There’s a reason Phil excels at Augusta and stinks at the British Open.
5) His core competencies—When you think about Phil’s countless talents, the ability to bomb in is certainly one. But Phil’s long game hasn’t been so hot this year. He’s 101st in greens in regulation, and 166th in driving accuracy. This certainly is in line with the stereotype of Phil being a player who sprays it all over the place, then scrambles to recover. But there are two statistics that stand out to me—Phil is seventh on tour in strokes gained putting, and sixth on tour in birdie average. Birdies win matches, and if Phil is able to get the putter going at all he’ll make them in bunches.
Now, the question is if Phil has a 10-footer to win the Cup, will he drain it? I wonder how his ups are compared to 2004...
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston sports blog.