Mickelson: It all starts with the captain

Phil Mickelson says the success or failure of a Ryder Cup team "all starts with the captain".

The American was scathing in his assessment of Tom Watson's leadership at the 2014 competition, which Europe won by five points at Gleneagles.

'Lefty' was subsequently included on a task force set up by the PGA of America to boost the nation's hopes of reclaiming a title they last won in 2008.

And Mickelson, returning for his 11th Ryder Cup, feels the role of the captain is vital, citing an example from 2004, when he and Tiger Woods surprisingly failed to fire.

"It all starts with the captain," said the 46-year-old. "I mean, that's the guy that has to bring together 12 strong individuals and bring out their best and allow them on a platform to play their best. That's the whole foundation of the team. 

"But you play how you prepare. And in major championships, when we win or play well in majors, it's because we prepared properly for those events and that allowed to us bring out our best golf.

"In a Ryder Cup, you have to prepare properly for the event.

"Let me give you an example - in 2004, Tiger and I were paired together and we ended up not playing well. But we were told two days before that we were playing together and that gave us no time to work together and prepare.

"He found out the year before when we played at The Presidents Cup in 2003 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 and tried to learn his golf ball in a four- or five-hour session. It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course, in an effort to crash-course and learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing.

"And in the history of my career, I have never ball-tested two days prior to a major. I've never done it. It doesn't allow me to play my best. What allows me to play my best is to learn the course, sharpen my touch on the greens, sharpen my chipping out of the rough and ball striking and so forth.

"I'm not trying to knock anybody here, because I actually loved how decisive captain [Hal] Sutton was. I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive. Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work and could have had some success.

"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."

The Ryder Cup begins at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota on Friday.

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