Phil Mickelson believes he has one ‘realistic’ chance to make the Ryder Cup

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson hits his tee shot on Thursday on the 2nd hole at Caves Valley.

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Phil Mickelson, on his drive to Caves Valley Golf Club on Thursday, looked into his cellphone, paused and asked a question. 

“Who,” he said with a short pause, “is ready to ball?”

Of course, you know his answer as sure as you know Lefty is a lefty, but we won’t spoil Phil being Phil for you. 

“This guy,” he said on the video posted to his social media accounts. “This guy’s ready to ball. I’m in last place, nothing to lose, go for broke, put it all out there, lay it on the line. I’m ready to ball.”

Availability to ball, though, is one thing. Opportunities to are another. 

Mickelson is playing this week’s BMW Championship. But as the six-time major champion alluded to above, he was the 70th, or last, player to make the second leg of the Tour’s playoffs, and only the top 30 move on to the season-ending Tour Championship next week. And he believes only a good showing there will get him selected for the biennial Ryder Cup at the end of next month. 

“Well, the only way for me to have a realistic chance of being picked is to get into the Tour Championship and then play well in the Tour Championship,” Mickelson said Thursday. “That means I’ve got to finish top probably three, I’m guessing; I’m not really sure of the math.

“I mean, I’m not going to say — I’m certainly a long shot, I would say, but I’m starting to play well, and if I can put together three good rounds, you never know.”

Thursday was a start. Mickelson birdied six holes, bogeyed two and shot a four-under 68, which is four strokes behind leaders Sam Burns, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. To play next week, he’ll need to duplicate that and probably then some — according to projections, a fourth-place finish might do it. 

Or, in his own words, ball. 

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A lack of that has put him in this hole. Since his victory at the PGA Championship at May, where, at 51, he became the oldest winner of a major championship, Mickelson has missed three cuts in seven events, including last week at the Northern Trust. He’s had one top 25, at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he tied for 17th. 

“I played OK,” Mickelson said of his round on Thursday. “It was a good start. It’s a good start. I’m starting to hit the ball a little bit better. I’m starting to putt a little bit better. I probably left a few out there, but I’ve got three more days, and I didn’t hurt myself any today.

“I have not been playing the best on the first round, and so now I’m in a decent position where if I can go play and score the way I’ve been playing, I should be able to shoot something in the mid- to low 60s and get right back in it.”

Should he, and should he follow up at the Tour Championship, it should give U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker at least the thought of naming Mickelson to his 13th team. The Americans’ six automatic spots will be locked after Sunday — Mickelson is 19th in those standings — and Stricker’s selections will come a few days after the Tour Championship. 

Should Mickelson not make it, would he consider a vice-captaincy?

“I love being a part of the Ryder Cup in any way, shape or form, so of course,” he said. “But I’m not thinking about that right now.”

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor