JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Phil Mickelson is the voice of experience in team competition, and there’s no comparison.
He was on the putting green Wednesday morning at the Presidents Cup, explaining to some of the six rookies on the American team why the teams might change for the final day of practice, the schedule after the team photo, just about anything short of how to tie their shoes.
Mickelson has played in the Presidents Cup every year since it began in 1994. He has played in every Ryder Cup since 1995. Add them up and this will be his 23rd consecutive time playing in a team event.
For someone like PGA champion Justin Thomas, playing in his first one, that can be hard to fathom.
“I can’t, especially because I was 1 when he playing in his first one, which is really crazy to think,” Thomas said. “I would love to see what kind of person he was then. I’m sure he was still the same kind of guy. But it’s crazy. To be that good for that long and to have the reputation that he does, being that much of a leader, a role model in the team rooms … I don’t know if it will ever be topped.”
Playing on so many Presidents Cup teams has mainly been a happy occasion. The Americans have lost only one of them, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, and tied the International team in 2003 in South Africa.
The International team, with Nick Price as captain for a third straight time, gets another chance to end a losing streak that is getting out of hand.
We’ve got a lot of power,” Price said. “I’ve always said this — 18-hole match play is anybody’s game.”
It’s been in the American game in this format, and Mickelson always figures into the equation.
That ultimately might be one of his greatest legacies when the Presidents Cup begins on Thursday, and Mickelson heads to the first tee with Kevin Kisner in a foursomes match against Jason Day and Marc Leishman.
It will his 52nd match in the Presidents Cup, and 97th match overall in either cup.
His 42 victories on the PGA Tour put him at No. 9 on the career list, three behind Walter Hagen. He has five majors, including three legs of the career Grand Slam. He has earned just over $83 million, second only to Tiger Woods. He already is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Most unusual about his career is what he hasn’t done.
Mickelson has never been No. 1 in the world. He was never won the PGA Tour money title. He has never been voted the PGA Tour player of the year.
But when it comes to teams — 23 in his case — he has a record that might not be topped for a long time, if ever.
“I think that it will be done,” Mickelson said. “But it’ll be done, I believe, because there’s so many talented players that I believe will have the longevity. But right now, it’s something that I’m really proud of.”
He has qualified all 11 times in the Ryder Cup. He has been a captain’s pick three times for the Presidents Cup, the first one in 1994, and then not again until 2015 when he was No. 30 in the standings, the worst position of any pick, but an easy choice because the entire team wanted him. It was a close call this year when U.S. captain Steve Stricker effectively put out an ultimatum for Mickelson to show some form. He responded with a tie for sixth at the TPC Boston.
No one else was playing great. Mickelson is tough to ignore.
“It really is a joy to be around him,” Brooks Koepka said. “Hopefully, he’s on a few more.”
Skill is only part of the equation, and Mickelson has an ample supply of that. The other part of the equation, perhaps more importantly, is remaining relatively injury-free. Even when he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in the summer of 2010, Mickelson was the leading American qualifier for the Ryder Cup.
His last big injury was in 1994 when he broke his leg skiing.
Jordan Spieth played in his first Presidents Cup at age 20 and this is his fifth team. He has the ability. He has age on his side.
“What has to happen is staying healthy, staying good, staying driven,” Spieth said. “To go through life the way he has and put family first, yet still being able to become of the top 10 and for the most part top couple golfers in the country, is really remarkable.”
Tiger Woods played his first event in 1997 at the Ryder Cup when he was 21. The best of his generation, Woods played 10 straight events until injury got in the way and he missed the 2008 Ryder Cup recovering from knee surgery. Jim Furyk made his debut in 1997 and played in 15 straight team events until he finished 13th in the standings and was passed over as a pick for Spieth.
Mickelson keeps right on going.
“He’s going to be someone who has game probably for another 10 years,” Thomas said. “It’s just a matter of if he’s healthy enough can still feel like he can go.”
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