No eyebrows were raised when United States captain Steve Stricker last week chose Phil Mickelson to be one of his two at-large picks for the 2017 Presidents Cup. It didn’t matter that the 47-year-old veteran carried a spotty record for the season and finished 15th in points standings. As far as the skipper was concerned, the unique blend of leadership, commitment, and experience slated to be provided by the 42-time PGA Tour winner trumped perceived performance deficiencies.
All the same, Stricker couldn’t have been anything but pleased by Mickelson’s sixth-place finish at the Dell Technologies Championship the immediate past weekend. If nothing else, it underscored the strides the Hall of Famer had been making to a hitherto-iffy game. So previously mediocre was he that he actually wound up splitting with longtime caddie and close friend Bones Mackay in an effort to get something — anything — going.
For Stricker, it doesn’t hurt that Mickelson is beloved in the Tri-State Area, not to mention a member of the Liberty National Golf Club, where the Presidents Cup will be held late this month. As he noted in the formal presser of the biennial event, “The way the people have treated me and my family has been remarkable…To be able to play in the Metropolitan area, where the fans are so supportive, is exciting. And to do it in the golf course I love is just as meaningful.”
Significantly, Mickelson’s selection keeps alive his streak of appearances in the Presidents Cup since its inaugural in 1994. And while he will likely be less busy inside the ropes through his 12th tour of duty, he figures to be just as influential in the sidelines. Not for nothing has he invariably been viewed as the consummate teammate. “He adds so much to the team,” Stricker said. “Great in the team room, great in the golf course, and it would [have been] hard to imagine not having him on the team.” Simply put, his importance to the cause of the hosts cannot be understated. Whether as a player, or as a mentor, or as a de facto vice-captain, he’ll stand front and center for the red, white, and blue.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.