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Mickelson and McIlroy trade verbal shots ahead of Ryder Cup showdown
It was only a matter of time before the 40th Ryder Cup reached a nice boil between team Europe and team USA, with golfing veteran Phil Mickelson taking a jokey jibe at McIlroy and McDowell, while the world No.1 smoothly mocked the American’s equipment switch error in 2004.
McIlroy has been seen using a new Nike driver ahead of the Ryder Cup tomorrow, and some suggested the move was asking for fate’s intervention. However, McIlroy was nonplussed by the concerns and pointed out the fact that, unlike his opposite number Mickelson, he had been testing the club on the greens for some time.
Phil Mickelson famously changed from Titleist to Callaway clubs shortly before the 2004 Ryder Cup kicked off at Oak Hills, where he went on to lose twice on the opening day and won just one point from four matches as Europe stormed to a record nine-point win.
“Phil Mickelson nearly hit me off the first tee in 2004,” said McIlroy. “I was standing down the left-hand side, so I’m very aware of what he did that week.
“Hey look, Phil changed from one equipment manufacturer to another. This is a driver that I’ve actually been using and practising with since June. I wouldn’t be putting it in the bag if I didn’t feel it was better.
“I think everyone saw yesterday it was the only driver I had out there in the bag. It’s looking likely that it’s going to be in the bag this week.”
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson was also speaking ahead of the Ryder Cup. And when asked about the claims that Europe were a closer bonded group than Team USA, he mocked the idea by throwing up the legal battle involving McIlroy and McDowell.
‘Lefty’ had a smile on his face when he make the remark, but it will still be felt far and wide – especially in the European camp.
Mickelson, who will make his 10th appearance in the Ryder Cup this year, responded to theories about why the Americans have such a dismal record over recent years, suggesting they aren’t as tight as their opponents.
Mickelson, a glinting smile on his face, responded: “Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don’t litigate against each other and that’s a real plus, I feel, heading into this week.
“I couldn’t resist. Sorry.”
The flippant comment is of course referring to McIlroy being sued by his former management team, of which McDowell is a partner. The case is still ongoing, with no resolution seemingly in sight.
McDowell himself has admitted that the unsavoury situation has put strain on their friendship, although he was at pains to stress yesterday that they have come out the other side and are “probably better friends than we were going into it.”
Cobra golfer Rickie Fowler dismissed the remark by Mickelson as “Phil’s always Phil.” But no one, including fellow teammate Fowler, will be under any illusion that Mickelson let the comment slip by accident. And it would certainly fit in with captain Tom Watson’s observation that a little bit of needling of the competition is part and parcel of matchplay golf.
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