Phil Mickelson took another thinly-veiled swipe at former captain Tom Watson ahead of the 41st Ryder Cup, suggesting he put his team in “position to fail” two years ago at Gleneagles.
And the five-time major winner also heavily criticised 2004 captain Hal Sutton for his decision to pair Mickelson with Tiger Woods, which resulted in two defeats on the opening day of that year’s record loss at Oakland Hills.
Mickelson caused controversy in 2014 when, within two hours of the United States suffering a third straight defeat in the biennial contest, he criticised Watson’s approach in the post-event press conference.
With Watson sitting just a few feet away on that occasion, Mickelson - who had been left out of a full day’s play on Saturday for the first time in 10 Ryder Cup appearances - stated his support for the methods of Paul Azinger, who captained the side to their last win at Valhalla in 2008.
He also said none of the players were consulted on “any decision” made by Watson and the fall-out led to the creation of an 11-man “task force” to examine all aspects of the US Ryder Cup process.
Mickelson, now 46, was one of the 11 and believes the subsequent analysis has given the home side a “foundation” to build on in the same manner as the European team.
“I think that when you look back on what the difference is, when players are put in a position to succeed, more often than not, they tend to succeed,” Mickelson told a press conference at Hazeltine.
“And when they are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail.
“This is a year where we feel as though captain (Davis) Love has been putting us in a position to succeed. He’s taken input from all parties. He’s making decisions that have allowed us to prepare our best and play our best, and I believe that we will play our best.
“Now we are playing a very strong European team and I don’t know what that means results-wise, but our best golf will come out this week and that’s our goal.”
Paul McGinley was Watson’s opposite number at Gleneagles and believes Mickelson is under the most pressure of any player this week because of his role in events.
“I can understand why he would say that,” added Mickelson, who was runner-up to Henrik Stenson in the Open at Troon in July. “I don’t necessarily agree with that because I feel this is, in my 20 years, the first time that we are actually involved in the decision-making process.
“This is the foundation week for us. This is the week where all the past captains, past vice captains, PGA of America officials, caddies, have had involvement. And from this, we’ll work forward and keep continuity into 2018 and from that we’ll build on in 2020.”
Asked about the importance of captains in the Ryder Cup, Mickelson used the example of his pairing with Woods in 2004 to illustrate his point on the importance of “preparing properly”.
“We were told two days before that we were playing together and that gave us no time to work together and prepare,” Mickelson said.
“He found out the year before when we played at the Presidents Cup that the golf ball I was playing was not going to work for him. He plays a very high-spin ball and I play a very low-spin ball, and we had to come up in two days with a solution.
“So I grabbed a couple dozen of his balls, I went off to the side and tried to learn his golf ball in a four or five-hour session. Had we known a month in advance, we might have been able to make it work.
“I’m not trying to knock anybody here, because I actually loved how decisive a captain Sutton was. I feel like that’s a sign of great leadership to be decisive.
“But that’s an example of starting with the captain that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely. But to say, well, you just need to play better - that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare.
“I’ve had to be accountable for that decision 12 years ago. Even a month ago, I hear there’s an analyst on the Golf Channel that accuses me of being a non-team player for having to go out and work on an isolated hole away from the team, away from my preparation. That’s a very frustrating thing.”