INCHEON, South Korea—Phil Mickelson studied the line of the putt from both sides, then stood over an imaginary golf ball about halfway to the hole and gently swung his putter to make sure he had the right read.
And it wasn’t even his shot.
“The first part is going to slide to the right,” he told Presidents Cup rookie Chris Kirk. “And then it’s going to try to move back to the left.”
Kirk narrowly missed the putt and Mickelson winced.
This was more than just one of his money games on a Tuesday at a big event.
Rather, Mickelson had yet another rookie under his wing—relishing in his role as the guy who has played the Presidents Cup as many times as the U.S. captain (Jay Haas) and two of his assistants (Fred Couples and Steve Stricker).
“His experience is huge,” said Jimmy Walker. “He’s playing with Chris Kirk and he’s telling him things throughout the history of his play, little tidbits here, something that might help Chris down the road in the next couple days.
“So I think that’s what really helps.”
The history of Mickelson in the Presidents Cup is extensive.
He has never missed one since it began in 1994, and this might be the most special of all. He was 30th in the U.S. standings and needed a captain’s pick to join the Americans at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
Haas sought the opinion of the players who qualified—and it became an easy choice.
“Across the board, the players were all in when we were texting and talking to them,” Haas noted.
“The captains, certainly, were all about Phil. . . .
“You could say, ‘Well, his play didn’t warrant being a consideration’ and all that,” Haas conceded.
“But I don’t know that you can put a value on what he means to the players and the demeanour he brings into the team room.”
He showed that much at the first team dinner last night. Mickelson dressed for the occasion in flag pants, which look like pajama bottoms with a Stars & Stripes pattern.
“I asked him if he was cooking because it looked like something a chef would wear,” Walker said.
“American flag pants? It was great.”
For all the incessant trash talking, side bets, and laughs, there is a serious side to this Presidents Cup for Mickelson.
He is proud of his streak—his 21st-consecutive time playing in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup— and he was as much a players’ pick as a captain’s pick.
“That meant more to me than anything, and I’m appreciative of the chance to have felt how that feels to be wanted by the other players,” Mickelson said.
“And it was very emotional for me when I found out.
“It makes me just want to play hard and do anything I can to help us succeed,” he stressed.