Phil takes a swing at European team with litigation barb
By Stephanie Wei under Ryder Cup

Oh, it’s Phil just being Phil again, but at least he created some stir on an otherwise rather slow news day in the longest ever lead-up to the Ryder Cup, which officially kicks off Friday at Gleneagles in Scotland.

In his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, Mickelson took a shot at the European team, specifically Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, when he was asked the oh-so-predictable question about whether the American players don’t get along or play together as well as the Europeans.

“Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don’t litigate against each other and that’s a real plus, I feel, heading into this week,” said Mickelson, with a sly smile.

Mickelson, who is making his 10th appearance on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, seemed almost to have prepared the line, knowing he’d be asked something along those lines that would give him the opportunity to deliver the jibe. If you want to take it a bit further, perhaps it was Phil’s way of sending a comeback to Rory over his recent comments about Mickelson being on the “last few holes of his career.”

” I couldn’t resist,” added Mickelson. “Sorry.”

Phil was referring to the ongoing legal battle between McIlroy and his former management company, Horizon, which represents McDowell. The former European Ryder Cup partners have insisted there’s no problem between the two of them and they remain friends, but McDowell has admitted it has, in fact, caused a “strain” on the dynamic of their relationship.

As to the reoccurring theme that the Americans don’t play as well together as the Europeans, there is some truth behind it. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s just cultural. At the same time, I’m not saying the Americans don’t get along or don’t want to win as badly. But on every other week of the year, they don’t appear as close as some of the Europeans.

For example, prior to the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this year, Rory and Sergio Garcia, whom were paired together in the last group, had lunch together. If it were two Americans in that same situation — trying to beat the other to win a tournament — you’d never ever see them socialize like that beforehand.

Another instance was at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. During a weather delay, a bunch of the Europeans, several of whom have played on the Ryder Cup team, were all pulling up chairs to sit together at the same table, along with their significant others and families. Meanwhile, you looked around the room and it seemed like most of the Americans were doing just the opposite and sitting on their own.

But I digress.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Rory got his own mini-jab back at Mickelson when it came to questions about switching drivers. Mickelson was criticized in 2004 for switching equipment manufacturers prior to the Ryder Cup, especially after he performed poorly.

When this was pointed out to McIlroy, who is likely putting a new Nike driver in his bag this week, he replied, laughing, “Phil Mickelson nearly hit me off the tees in 2004. I was standing down the left-hand side, so I’m very aware of what he did that week.

“Hey, look, Phil changed from one equipment manufacturer to another. This is a driver that I’ve actually been using and practicing with since June, so it’s not like — I wouldn’t be putting it in the bag if I didn’t feel it was better. But I think everyone saw yesterday, it was the only driver I had out there in the bag. It’s looking likely that it’s going to be in the bag this week.”