It can be hard to remember at times, between the wildly creative shot-making and outgoing persona, but Phil Mickelson is 43 years old, the second-oldest member of the American President’s Cup roster, and the only golfer to play in every President’s Cup since the event’s inception in 1994.
Aside from the obvious qualities that Mickelson brings to the team in his own game, one of the things that’s made him so valuable in recent years is his ability to connect with every member of the team, especially the younger stars.
There really is no better example of this leadership than what took place at last year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah. Mickelson was paired with Keegan Bradley, playing in his first Cup, and Bradley was understandably jittery at the beginning. Mickelson not only challenged him to hit a monster opening drive, but the two played off of each other’s energy the rest of the weekend. The Mickelson-Bradley pairing went on to win all three of the matches they played together, and Bradley hung around with Rory McIlroy in Sunday’s singles before falling 2&1.
While the Americans enjoy a decided advantage in President’s Cup competition throughout the event’s history, this could be an excellent test of Mickelson’s leadership as the team features several of golf’s younger stars. The obvious pairing with Bradley is still there, but even more exciting is the possibility of pairing Mickelson with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. The 2013 PGA Tour Rookie Of The Year has international experience in the amateur Walker Cup, but a pairing with “Lefty” could get him in the proper mindset for a potential spot in next year’s Ryder Cup.
Mickelson clearly loves playing in these events and sharing that passion with the younger guys on the team, and that will only help when it comes to getting the job done on the course. That isn’t lost on captain Fred Couples, and I expect we’ll see Phil and whoever he’s playing with leading the emotional charge through the weekend.