US captain shares love with record breaker Mickelson

USA Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III was last night close to tears as he praised Phil Mickelson’s leadership skills as the left-hander prepares to make an American record ninth appearance at Medinah tomorrow.

Mickelson, 42, has been an ever-present on the US team since 1995 and the four-time major winner could also surpass Billy Casper’s record of playing 37 matches by the time the contest with Europe concludes on Sunday night.

While his record in the matches is not a winning one, Love has been overawed by his former team-mate’s contribution as a team leader, with the captain lauding both Mickelson and Tiger Woods for leaving their lofty positions in the game at the locker-room door.

“I think Phil’s a lot like Tiger. They both came on to the teams trying to win a whole bunch of points, and they thought that was what they were supposed to do, and now they just want to win,” Love said.

“I can’t tell you how many times both Tiger and Phil have said: ‘Whatever you want us to do, we’ll do it’. We just had a discussion out there in the group, Tiger, Strick, and they’re like, ‘look, tell us what you want us to do, and we’ll do it’.

“I think that’s the difference with a veteran, somebody that’s been around. Phil gets it, and he knows what to say at the right time. He knows when to be serious and when to give his strategy theories, and he knows when to make a joke and have fun.

“He and Brandt (Snedeker) have been going back and forth all week, and they’re having a great time, and he’s pulled Brandt in. They’re just great. I love being around them.”

Love was tearing up as he spoke but quickly composed himself to joke at the expense of famously emotional team member Bubba Watson.

“I told you, Bubba and I are going to cry a lot. We were both crying at the same table last night.”

Whether Love will be crying tears of joy or misery on Sunday night will, as always at Ryder Cup time, come down to who putts best on Medinah’s greens. Love said he saw no change in that assessment this time around in a contest between two evenly matched teams.

“I think it comes down to putting, generally. A chip in here or there maybe, but it generally comes down to which team holes the most putts.

“(Europe) always seem to have a few guys that putted so much better. Sunday of Brookline, what did we do? We made every single putt. I mean, it was in the captain’s videos and other videos we watch, all you see is guys just making putts from all over the place.

“I think it’s whoever gets hot and confident with the putter. Valderrama, you could not have seen a worse putting team than the US had. Tiger, Justin (Leonard), myself, we putted so poorly. And you just get going and you start making them, and you feed off of it.

“So I think it’s going to come down to putting, chip ins, hole outs, things like that. Because they’re both evenly matched. You have great ball-striking teams, you obviously have a big ballpark golf course where guys are going to be able to go out there and bomb it around and free wheel it, and it’s going to be fun to play, but it’s going to come down to chipping and putting.”

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