SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – If Phil Mickelson’s tenure at the Ryder Cup as a player is over, and it very well may be, it couldn’t have ended in much more crushing fashion.
The 48-year-old’s run of a record 12 consecutive appearances in the biennial event culminated with a Sunday singles blowout loss to red-hot Francesco Molinari 4 and 2 as the U.S. gave the Cup back to Europe 17 1/2-10 1/2. The match and competition fittingly ended when Mickelson’s tee shot on the 16th splashed into the pond and the hole was conceded to Molinari (5-0). Mickelson (0-2) took off his cap and gave the Italian a hand.
Mickelson did make history on this day. His all-time mark of 47 Ryder Cup matches played brought with it the standard for losses at 22.
That followed up on his benching via text message on Saturday, which piled on to a gruesome 5-and-4 loss with Bryson DeChambeau to Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren in foursomes on Friday.
Forget Paris. Mickelson wishes he could.
Afterward, he struggled to let go.
“It’s difficult to talk about it because (the Ryder Cup) means so much to me over the years, and I did not play well this year,” he said. “This could very well, realistically, be my last one.
“But with these guys, I’m motivated now to work hard, to not go out on this note, and I’m motivated to play well these next two years to get back at Whistling Straits and to show what I can do in these events, because this week was not my best. … It’s just been a struggle.”
Some questioned U.S. captain Jim Furyk’s selection of Mickelson as an at-large pick ahead of the event. Many more jumped on the bandwagon as Lefty struggled to keep his ball in play at drum-tight Le Golf National.
Furyk figured Mickelson’s experience would help steady a mostly young U.S. squad in the team room. Instead he flailed as the U.S. failed, making critics wonder if straight shooters such as Keegan Bradley, Kevin Kisner or Kyle Stanley might have been a better choice.
Furyk’s bet on his old buddy went bust. The captain was asked if he would have done anything different.
“I think in the future, I’ll work with The PGA of America and I’ll work with basically our Ryder Cup committee and I think we’ll keep improving. We’ll keep growing,” he said.
Mickelson wasn’t the only American vet to stumble in France. Tiger Woods, coming in hot off winning the Tour Championship, went 0-4.
On the other side, European captain Thomas Bjorn, like Furyk, was panned in advance for his pick of off-form but battle-tested Garcia. Sergio actually came through, posting a 3-1 mark. With his singles victory he became the all-time Ryder Cup points leader.
Golf can be fickle. No one knows that better than Mickelson.
It was not meant to be here for Phil, who moves on to a contrived, pay-per-view match with Woods in Las Vegas come November. His showing along the Seine will do little to sell signups for that Sin City spectacle.
One of America’s all-time best has passed his prime. It appears a bitter end in Ryder Cup play for the five-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer.
Neil Young wrote, it’s better to burn out than fade away.
Mickelson left some scorched earth outside Paris. Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the October issue of Golfweek.)