Phil: Not Ryder Cup worthy without improvement


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Phil Mickelson went to the driving range after his third round at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, searching for answers.

If he doesn’t find them soon, Mickelson said he does not deserve a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team next month.

A victory in May at the PGA Championship seemed to put Mickelson on the path to a 13th consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, but the results have been poor since that historic win that saw him become the oldest major champion.

“I have three events (to go) and I haven’t had a top-10 outside of the PGA,” Mickelson said when taking a break from his practice session at TPC Southwind, where he shot a third-round 70 and is tied for 25th. “You can’t take somebody that is that inconsistent. I have three events, here and the two playoff events.

“And if I finish high in those events and move up on the list, you never know. But you have to have a little bit more consistency and momentum I think.”

Mickelson is helped by the fact that U.S. captain Steve Stricker has six at-large picks. That allows for a bit more leeway in deciding to fill out his team, which will have six automatic qualifiers following the BMW Championship later this month.

At the moment, the top-six automatic spots are held by Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.

Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Harris English are next. English is in contention at the FedEx St. Jude and a victory would move him into the top-six. Others who would be considered for spots could be Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa and anyone else who possibly gets hot during the FedEx Cup playoffs which start in two weeks at the Northern Trust.

Mickelson, 51, is 17th in the Ryder Cup points and is in line to make the Northern Trust and BMW Tournaments. He is 58th in FedEx points and the top 125 make the field at the Northern Trust while the top 70 advance to the BMW. From there, the top 30 advance to Atlanta for the season-ending Tour Championship.

While the top six for the Ryder Cup are selected following the BMW, Stricker won’t make his six picks until after the Tour Championship. Mickelson was unaware of that.

“Well there you go,” he said. “I probably need to get there (to Atlanta), play well and have some momentum. I need a couple of good finishes and then it would be easy to justify. But I think with no top-10s it would be tough to justify.”

This his Mickelson’s 17th event of 2021. The 45-time PGA Tour winner who has six major titles has not finished among the top 20 in any of the other 15 tournaments he has played outside of the PGA victory. His next best is a tie for 21st at the Masters.

Since winning the PGA, Mickelson, who is ranked 31st in the world, has missed two cuts – including at The Open – and his best finish is a tie for 61st at the Travelers Championship. Mickelson has played in every Ryder Cup going back to his first in 1995, where he went 3-0. That’s 12 straight, including a 0-2 record in 2018 during a U.S. loss in Paris. In those 12 Ryder Cups, the U.S. has gone 3-9, with the only victories coming in 1999, 2008 and 2016. Mickelson is 18-22-7 overall.

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