Ryder Cup veteran Phil Mickelson could not resist a tongue-in-cheek dig at the only element of Europe’s preparations which had the slightest whiff of disharmony.
Much of the talk leading up to the players arriving at Gleneagles was about the relationship between Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in light of the world number one’s court case against his former management company into which his fellow Northern Irishman has been dragged.
Both players and captain Paul McGinley have allayed any concerns but in trying to accentuate the togetherness of the United States team Mickelson joked about the issue.
“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,” said the 44-year-old, who added with a smile: “I couldn’t resist.”
It was a good line, even if it was not entirely accurate as McIlroy’s legal wrangle is with Horizon, which McDowell is leaving under far friendlier terms at the end of the year, and not his team-mate.
Mickelson has had legal issues of his own this year after being questioned by the FBI in relation to an investigation into alleged insider share trading. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Only a couple of weeks ago McIlroy suggested Mickelson and the absent Tiger Woods were “playing the last few holes of their careers”.
McGinley later declined to comment on the remark while USA team-mate Rickie Fowler said: “Phil’s always Phil, that’s why we love him.
“We hear a lot of those one-liners in practice rounds in Tuesday games so it’s nothing new to me.”
Mickelson will become the first American to play in 10 Ryder Cups this week when he will reprise the partnership with Keegan Bradley.
“I’ve got a good partner that obviously I’m going to play again with Keegan. I don’t think I’m letting go of any secrets here,” said the left-hander.
He and Bradley looked unstoppable together at Medinah two years ago, winning three points as the hosts raced into a 8-4 lead after three sessions – which they later extended to 10-4 – before Europe began their fightback late on the Saturday by winning two points ahead of the drama of Sunday singles.
Mickelson insists he has no regrets about the decision not to play in the Saturday afternoon fourballs despite their amazing form.
“I understand why this continues to be a topic of conversation but I need you to grasp our mindset because it will make sense that it had no impact on the outcome of the event,” he insisted.
“When we were ahead five or six holes (against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald), Davis Love came to us and said ‘Do you want to play?’ and I guess I said our deal was we were going to go out and play as hard as we can in the morning round knowing we were going to be sitting in the afternoon giving somebody else a chance and resting for the singles.
“The debate was this: Should Keegan and I play or should Bubba (Watson) and Webb (Simpson) play?
“Bubba and Webb went out and they won the point so it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference – we weren’t going to take anybody else’s place.
“There is absolutely no way that that had an outcome on the final event.”