Originally created 09/22/04

Mickelson's year ends on sour note



Phil Mickelson has a green jacket in his closet to remind him this has been a great year.

It just might not seem that way right now.

In the ultimate case of "what have you done for me lately," Mickelson has gone from Masters Tournament champion to Ryder Cup renegade.

He certainly wasn't the goat at Oakland Hills; for once, that was a team effort. But most of the criticism probably will fall into his lap for a series of dubious decisions that were magnified by poor play.

First, he changed equipment companies a week before the Ryder Cup. Then he didn't play on the tournament course the final two days before the matches.

All that would have been overlooked except for his performance. Mickelson got benched Saturday morning. He lost his singles match with what NBC analyst Johnny Miller called a "nut shot." And his 1-3 mark at Oakland Hills was the first time in five Ryder Cups that Lefty had a losing record.

Asked to explain what went wrong for the Americans, one can only hope Mickelson wasn't serious when he said that playing in the Ryder Cup was a "career-defining moment for us."

If that's the case, Mickelson's defining moment would be that knockdown 9-iron he tried to bounce onto the 16th green along the water at Oakland Hills, not the 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Augusta National Golf Club. He would be remembered as the guy who skipped two days of team practice, not the one who so brilliantly mapped out a strategy at the majors that he came within five shots of winning all four.

The next thing Mickelson said Sunday night was more accurate.

"When we get here, we are under constant ridicule and scrutiny over our play, and not coming together as a team, and all of this stuff that we know to be false," he said.

Mickelson was begging for scrutiny. Given the events leading up to the Ryder Cup, it's a wonder he didn't replace the small American flag on the back of his team uniform with a bulls-eye.

He is not the first player to change equipment before the Ryder Cup. Tiger Woods caused a stir when he switched to Nike irons a week before the '02 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. But then he won the World Golf Championship that week in Ireland by not making a bogey until the 72nd hole.

Mickelson switched to the Callaway driver, fairway metals and golf ball at the Canadian Open and tied for 57th with his highest-score of the year (291) and fewest number of birdies (11).