Jay Haas Tuesday backed his decision to give a Presidents Cup captain’s pick to veteran Phil Mickelson, saying the five-time Major winner offered something “intangible” to his US team.
As the players headed out for their first full day of practice at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in the South Korean city of Incheon, Haas strongly defended his decision to choose Mickelson as one of two picks in his 12-man team after finishing only 30th in the US qualifying list.
“I don’t think there were any negatives to any of the players that we passed over,” said Haas in a news conference.
“I think Phil (and) the intangible that he brought to the team maybe put him over the top.”
Mickelson is the only man to play at every Presidents Cup since its inception in 1994, when he was also a captain’s pick.
The amiable “Lefty” was runner-up to teammate Jordan Spieth at the US Masters in April, but has shown little form since, registering just two top-10 finishes and falling to 24th in the world.
But he has also played in the last 10 Ryder Cups and has scored more Presidents Cup points than anyone else in the event’s history.
Haas believes experience will be invaluable as the United States tries to extend a proud record in the biennial match play team event where they have only lost once, back in 1998.
“Obviously you cannot replace his experience in this,” added Haas, who said Mickelson’s mere presence in Incheon was a huge lift to the team.
“He’s doing everything we’ve asked of him and he seems to be relishing that role,” Haas said.
“You could say, well, his play didn’t warrant being a consideration and all that. But I don’t know that you can put a value on what he means to the players and the demeanour that he brings into the team room.”
“Phil has been great already. He’s been Phil, and he asked: ‘What do you want me to do?’ And I said: ‘I want you to be you.’
“I think that’s one of the main reasons we picked him is to lift the players’ spirits, to keep them loose.”
– ‘Players all-in’ –
He said the choice of Mickelson had been unanimously endorsed by the other players and his assistant captains, Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.
“Across the board, the players were all-in when we were texting them and talking to them. The captains, certainly, were all about Phil,” Haas said.
Mickelson said the best way he could repay Haas’s faith in him was by scoring points for the team.
“As a player you want to play well. That’s the thing that you can really bring to the table. You play well, make a lot of birdies and make points, that’s the idea, that’s the goal as a player,” Mickelson told reporters.
He said he hoped his vast experience could help bring the best out of his teammates.
“One of the things that, having been on a number of teams, is to try to figure out how to get the best out of each individual player,” said Mickelson.
“Because guys are so different and it’s an individual game — figuring out when to say something, when not to say something — that can bring the best out of the guys.”