DUBLIN, Ohio – In another life, the suspicion is Phil Mickelson might have made a wonderful quarterback. His ability to call an audible? Well, it agrees with his aggressive and creative nature.
Of course, to make an audible effective, one has to have willing teammates and in Keegan Bradley, Mickelson has the perfect running mate.
In Phil, he trusts.
“We had actually had a phone call about a month ago,” Bradley said, conceding that the decision had been made to be partners in the upcoming Presidents Cup. “I was going to go on the odds.”
Meaning in the foursomes, Mickelson wanted Bradley to take the tee shot on all the odd holes, and at Muirfield Village Golf Club, that’s significant because the par 5s are the fifth, seventh, 11th and 15th. Mickelson loved the idea of Bradley driving it deep, then letting the lefthander take it from there.
But understood in this partnership is that Mickelson is the captain and reserves the right to change his mind. And sure enough, an hour before their 1:15 p.m. tee time against Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, “I’m in the team room and I hear that Phil wants to talk to me about switching.”
Bradley smiled. If Tom Brady wants you to run a different route at the last second, you run a different route.
“He’s got his reasons why he does everything,” Bradley said, and his smile grew wider, for good reason. “And he was right.”
OK, Coach Phil, what prompted this change of plans and the productive way in which it unfolded?
“He’s the best hybrid, fairway-wood player I’ve ever seen,” Mickelson said, “and so if I hit a decent drive, he gets to play to his strength.”
You want a blueprint followed to perfection. Consider this:
• At the par-5 fifth, the Americans sitting 1 down, Mickelson split the fairway and left Bradley 268 yards to the hole, 250 to carry water that guards the front left side of the green. Bradley jumped all over a hybrid – yes, you read correctly; a hybrid – that hit right of the hole, curled left, and set up “just the easiest 15-foot putt” for eagle, Mickelson said. The lefthander did his part by burying the part to ignite a stretch of four straight wins.
• At the par-5 seventh, Mickelson again found the fairway, and Bradley again from the vicinity of 260 yards, this time with a 3-wood, found the green. Two putts, another birdie, and the lead was 2 up.
• At the par-5 11th, Mickelson’s tee ball came to rest on the right side of the fairway, in the first cut, and from 264 yards his partner rocketed a 3-wood onto the green. Two more putts, another birdie, and a 5 up cushion.
• Then, at the uphill par-5 15th, with a chance to close out the match, Bradley took yet another fairway-splitting drive by Lefty and hit a hybrid just short of the green. This, of course, also played into Mickelson’s plan because if Bradley didn’t find the green, “I get to play to my strength, which is the wedge,” said the lefthander, who defty wedged to 3 feet, yet another birdie, and curtains for Day and DeLaet, a 4-and-3 trouncing.
Certainly, the par-saves at the par-4 third and par-3 fourth were crucial. The latter came courtesy of Mickelson’s all-world bunker shot to a foot, the latter was credited to Bradley’s 18-footer to save par.
“Seeing Keegan make that putt was huge,” Mickelson said. “If not, we’re 2 down.”
Instead, the Americans were still just 1 down and headed into the first of the four par 5s. That it delivered Bradley’s thunderous hybrid and Mickelson’s cozy eagle putt might not have been how Captain Lefty drew it up exactly . . . but then again, maybe it was.
It certainly ignited an explosive move – eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie – and when they turned in 30 to get 3 up, there was no way Mickelson and Bradley weren’t going to stay on the offensive.
“Today we were on,” Mickelson said, a reference to the way Thursday’s four-ball loss to Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel had left a sour taste in their mouths.
And they were especially on at the par 5s, where they went 5 under.
“I can’t do that any better,” Mickelson said. “Unbelievable.”
To be filed under an audible well executed.