The five-time major winner gave a withering account of Watson’s captaincy at Gleneagles in 2014 as the American legend shared the same table at the losers’ press conference in Scotland.
It has led to Watson’s opposite number Paul McGinley and his 2010 predecessor Colin Montgomerie to state Mickelson will be feeling the most pressure to succeed, given the changes to the USA team’s set-up he brought about by his actions.
“I can understand why he would say that,” Mickelson said of McGinley yesterday.
“I don’t necessarily agree because what I feel is that this is, in my 20 years, the first time we are actually involved in the decision-making process.
“And the decisions we are accountable for every single year, we now have involvement in.
“This is the foundation week for us, the week where all the past captains, past vice captains, PGA of America officials, caddies, have had involvement in the decision-making process.
“And from this, we’ll work forward and keep continuity.
“We’ve seen that for decades from the European side.
“It’s exciting to be part of the groundwork and the foundation of the US side trying to do that now going forward.”
As an example of the difference a captain can make to the success or failure of his team, 10-time Ryder Cupper Mickelson retold how at Oakland Hills in 2004, Hal Sutton made Tiger Woods his partner on the first day, the power pair losing both matches.
“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. And in a Ryder Cup, you have to prepare properly for the event.
“Now, I see these looks, like what are you talking about. Let me give you an example, if I may,” Mickelson continued amid laughter, telling of how Sutton told him to play with Woods just two days previously, giving them no time to get used to each other’s very different golf balls.
“I’m not trying to throw, to knock anybody here, because I actually loved how decisive captain 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.
“But to say, well, you just need to play better; that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare.”