On May 1st, 2021, no one in their right mind would have bet that U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker would pick the then-50-year-old Phil Mickelson to play on his team. Despite his long Ryder Cup career, Mickelson just didn’t have the game left to waste a captain’s pick on.
The arithmetic behind that decision changed in a big way later that month, when Mickelson incredibly won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, capturing his sixth major title and becoming the oldest major champion in the process.
Would the epic victory change everyone’s minds and earn Phil a spot on the team? We found out the answer this week, and the truth is it’s a little bit of both.
On Wednesday Stricker announced that Mickelson and Fred Couples would serve as his Ryder Cup assistant captains at Whistling Straits later this month.
“I’ve been staying in close contact with both Freddie and Phil, talking about all things Ryder Cup, for a while now. They provide honest and impactful feedback, and both have such a passion for the Ryder Cup,” Stricker said in a press release announcing his picks. “I’m honored that they were willing to join our Team and help put us in the best position to win in a few weeks at Whistling Straits.”
So Mickelson will not miss his first Ryder Cup since 1995, but his selection as an assistant captain means that his chances of playing on the team are over. Tiger Woods was a playing captain on the 2019 Presidents Cup team, selecting himself as a captain’s pick. But at No. 20 in the Ryder Cup standings, Mickelson is likely out of luck, though he will almost definitely play the role as Ryder Cup captain in the coming years.
The announcement also solved another Ryder Cup mystery involving Tiger. Mickelson and Couples join previously-named U.S. assistant captains Zach Johnson, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. That gives Stricker the maximum of five assistants, so despite expressing interest in putting an injured Tiger on his captain’s staff, Tiger will be sitting this one out.
The Ryder Cup begins September 24th.