Ryder Cup pain persists, but Lefty focuses on new path

Phil Mickelson speaks with the media prior to the start of the WGC HSBC Champions at the Mission Hills Resort.

Phil Mickelson speaks with the media prior to the start of the WGC HSBC Champions at the Mission Hills Resort.

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DONGGUAN, China – It has been more than a month since the U.S. team was beaten on Sunday in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, but the hangover continues for some of the marquee names in the game.

On Tuesday before the HSBC Champions here on the bustling southeast China coast, Phil Mickelson conceded that the immediate hangover from the U.S. team's loss persists and might not be exorcised in his career.

“I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career,” Mickelson said of his seventh loss in nine Ryder Cups. “It was a very emotional time because we really thought we were going to win. We expected to win; we were playing well; we thought that we were going to do it on Sunday. It was one of the biggest disappointments that I've had to deal with throughout my career."

Mickelson returns to competition this week at Mission Hills Golf Club's Olazabal Course for the first time since his 1-up singles loss to England’s Justin Rose. Before the Sunday singles, Mickelson had his best Ryder Cup, winning three points with Keegan Bradley as his partner.

During the first two days of the biennial matches, the Bradley/Mickelson combination was lethal and led the U.S. to a four-point lead going into what many thought was a perfunctory Sunday singles.

“I think that the disappointment will last a lot longer than a month,” Mickelson said. “I still feel disappointed from it. I still feel that over the next two years, we'll still have the same disappointment from not winning this year's Ryder Cup.”

Bradley, the other part of the duo, also was disappointed, but maybe because he doesn’t have the Ryder Cup scares of Mickelson or because, at 26, he is so much younger. Regardless, Bradley looked back on the week as having been special.

“It was really difficult, because you have such mixed emotions,” Bradley said. “For me, it was just such an amazing week, and then to see that we lost was tough. I didn't watch any Golf Channel or read anything, because it was too difficult.”

If there is a positive for Mickelson to take from Chicago, he found it in his experience playing with Bradley.

Not only did their friendship grow from Medinah, but also the left-hander learned how to play golf differently – from the middle of the fairway – and he liked the result.

“I saw some things where I can improve my game, and I have this new kind of excitement and energy that Keegan has, and it's rubbed off on me and I am excited to play and work and practice,” Mickelson said. “I saw an opportunity to where if I could drive the ball the way Keegan did, I would really have some opportunities and chances to do something special in my career and have some of my best finishes.”

Bradley understood Mickelson's perspective.

“In the alternate‑shot format, I was putting Phil in some great spots, and Phil with a wedge or any sort of iron from the fairway is deadly,” Bradley said. “If he's got a wedge and it's outside 5 feet, I'm shocked. So I think he's going to try to focus in on getting the ball in the fairway more and in play, because he's the absolute best iron player I've ever seen.”

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