News & Opinion

Mickelson doesn’t deserve Presidents Cup pick

NORTON, Mass. – All good things must come to an end, which is why Phil Mickelson should not be part of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

It’s not easy to say that Mickelson, a World Golf Hall of Fame member with five major championships among his 42 PGA Tour victories and 22 international team appearances, should not be given a captain’s pick today by Steve Stricker. But it’s the right thing to do if you believe that other players deserve a chance.

Mickelson tied for sixth Monday at the Dell Technologies Championship with a fourth consecutive round in the 60s. That result seemingly would support his spot on the team and not on the sidelines, but performance in one event should not make the difference.

At age 47, Mickelson hasn’t won since capturing the 2013 British Open. Although he has been competitive at times, with 16 top 10s in 89 events since hoisting the Claret Jug at Muirfield, Mickelson has shown considerable decline in his game this season. He missed the cut at two of his three major-championship starts and skipped the U.S. Open to attend his daughter’s high-school graduation.

In five key statistical strokes-gained categories (approach-the-green, around-the-green, putting, tee-to-green and total) Mickelson has gone backwards from his 2016 ranking.

The biggest areas of concern: around the greens and on the putting surfaces.

In 2016, Mickelson ranked 34th in strokes gained: around-the-green and ninth in strokes gained: putting. This year, he ranks 43rd and 35th, respectively. That drop surely concerns Stricker, who will disclose his two wild-card picks late this afternoon to complete the 12-man team for the Sept. 28-Oct. 1 matches against the Internationals at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. (Presidents Cup standings: http://bit.ly/2wFOFuX.)

After Friday’s first round here, Mickelson disclosed that he is receiving treatment for another medical condition, which he would not divulge. For the past seven years, Mickelson has been undergoing treatment for psoriatic arthritis.

“This is my best energy I’ve had throughout the round and the best focus, the first time I’ve been able to visualize,” Mickelson said Friday. “My short game has been very disappointing, and I haven’t been able to visualize the shot I’ve been trying to hit. And today, and for the last few days, I’ve been able to see the shot again.”

Regardless, does Mickelson, who finished 15th in the Presidents Cup standings, deserve to be on the team more than No. 11 Charley Hoffman or No. 12 Brian Harman? In his 22 international team events, Mickelson has compiled a slightly better-than-average record: 18-20-7 in 11 Ryder Cups and 23-16-12 in 11 Presidents Cups. That’s a .526 winning percentage.

“The young guys seem to have chips on their shoulders,” Stricker said Monday via mobile phone in Wisconsin. “They are all very close and maybe a little grittier or tougher, as well.”

Stricker added that he would consider an experienced player, provided that the golfer is playing well.

With his performance last week, Mickelson gave Stricker enough cover to pick him. If so, Stricker would miss the valuable point of taking Hoffman or Harman.

Hoffman, 40, might be older but deserves a spot based on his play during the past year. Harman, 30, could be part of future U.S. teams.

Even Pat Perez, 41, who tied for sixth at TPC Boston but placed 22nd in the Presidents Cup standings, is more deserving than Mickelson. 

Perez stands 10th on the FedEx Cup points list, ahead of Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Chappell and Patrick Reed, all of whom made the team on points, as well as Hoffman and Harman.

It’s an imperfect system, but it becomes even less so by picking a player who has not shown much form in 2017, just because of what he has done in the past.

But even Mickelson concedes that the picks may not mean that much in the end.

“The core nucleus of the team, the guys that are going to be the critical guys to perform to ultimately win are usually – well, they are the guys that make it on points. Because those are the guys that have played the best, and those are the guys that you're going to look to perform and play the best,” Mickelson said. “So, when you take picks, you are not looking at those guys as being, He's my top player. You're looking at Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, and those are the guys that have performed and those are the guys that have to play well for the U.S. to win the Presidents Cup.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli