SAN FRANCISCO – This was the 15th time Phil Mickelson has played in the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, and the first time he came alone. His wife, Amy, is recovering from breast cancer and stayed home in San Diego.
Or so he thought.
Mickelson had no idea that when he returned to his hotel room Saturday night, his wife was hiding in the bathroom.
“It was an incredible surprise,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t think she was coming up, and she actually hid in the bathroom when I walked in the room. I didn’t know she was there, and she scared me pretty good. It was an awesome surprise, though.”
It was a treat for the rest of the team, too.
They had worn pink ribbons in their hat during the week to commemorate breast cancer awareness. Players and wives alike were surprised to find Mickelson and his wife at the team dinner Saturday night.
“It was pretty neat,” Mickelson said. “It was pretty emotional. Just everyone seeing each other was pretty cool.”
Amy Mickelson, who faces more tests over the next few weeks in Houston, did not make it out to Harding Park. Mickelson said she can only leave the room for a few hours at a time because of her medicine that takes energy out of her.
“Couple good hours each day,” he said.
His wife stayed behind in the hotel during the Sunday singles, when her husband won the final match on the course against Retief Goosen. She was waiting back in the team room for the celebration.
“She looked great,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “All the wives were excited.”
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JORDAN RULES: Michael Jordan helped the U.S. team win the Presidents Cup. Then some players went home with his jersey.
Captain Fred Couples handed out four limited-edition No. 23 jerseys to show his appreciation for a team that easily defeated the International team for the sixth time in eight tries.
One went to Tiger Woods, another to Steve Stricker, and still another to Anthony Kim, as a way to motivate the young player.
And one was given to Amy Mickelson, who is being treated for breast cancer.
Jordan was an unofficial assistant captain on the U.S. team, and he bonded with players from the moment they all arrived in San Francisco. He was a constant presence in a golf cart on the course, and an even bigger presence in the team room and at team gatherings.
Couples said the smartest thing he did after being named captain was bring Jordan aboard because he was a winner. And when asked if he had any advice to Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, he had just one thing to say.
“Maybe sign up Michael Jordan.”
Jordan wasn’t on stage for the opening ceremonies so he wouldn’t overshadow the event, but he was in the closing ceremonies. And he came to the team’s media interview afterward, where he talked about the importance of teamwork.
“Obviously I don’t play in team sports anymore, but I’m glad to see that this sport has adapted to a whole team concept,” Jordan said. “Contrary to what people may say, there is team sports here in professional golf at the right time and at the right moments and the right events. So I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
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PAIRING PANIC: Fred Couples was never obsessed with having the perfect pairing for the U.S. team, confident that his players were so good they could win no matter who they played with or against.
When he did make them, he said he found it a lot easier than what he thought. For Thursday’s opening foursomes, he said he and assistant captain Jay Haas spent just a few minutes figuring out who would play where.
Then came the pairings for Sunday’s singles matches, and suddenly the easygoing Couples was feeling uneasy. He thought International captain Greg Norman would try to front-load his pairings in an effort to win some early points since his team was down going into the final matches, and had trouble adjusting when that didn’t happen.
“A little bit last night Jay and I were talking, we didn’t want the pairings like they were. We were trying to go the complete opposite,” Couples said. “And I woke up at about 3:30 and for three hours all I did was think, ‘How are we going to do this and how are we going to do that?’ That’s the only night of the whole week where I worried about anything. I don’t know why. Just the other pairings were so easy.”
Turned out Couples could have rested easy. The first four matches ended in U.S. victory for an insurmountable lead. The Americans won the singles session, 7-5.
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THE CONCESSION: For a final touch at this Presidents Cup, Vijay Singh was all square in his match with U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover as they played the 18th. Glover blasted out of a bunker to 7 feet, while Singh had an eagle putt from about 35 feet.
After the Fijian missed, he conceded Glover’s birdie putt to halve the match.
“We had already lost on the 13th hole,” Singh said, alluding to Tiger Woods’ cup-clinching putt. “It was kind of demoralizing. But Lucas played well. He would have made it, anyway.”
Glover said after watching Woods win his match – that gave the Americans more than then 17 1/2 points they needed to win – he and Singh were “pretty much ready to go in then.”
“It was great. It was a good gesture,” Glover said. “I’m not sure he knew what the score was, because he came up afterward and said, ‘I didn’t know that was for a halve. I thought I was 1 up.’ ”
Glover laughed as he said it, adding it was a fitting way to end the match.
“It was pretty cool of Vijay, even if he jokes around and says he didn’t know what the score was,” Glover said.
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BACK IN 2011?: Fred Couples and Greg Norman said they wouldn’t mind returning as captains when the Presidents Cup is held in Australia two years from now.
It’s a natural for Norman, one of the greatest players from Down Under.
“If I was asked to be captain in 2011, yeah, I would absolutely accept it,” Norman said. “I think it would be a joy to go to my home country and a golf club that I’m a member at to go and try and finally win the cup back after 10 years.”
The only International victory came in 1998 at Royal Melbourne.
“Would I do it again? Hell, yeah, I would do it again,” Couples said. “Would I be picked again? I have no idea, but I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. It was … way better than any golf tournament, ever. It was that much fun.”