Ryder Cup 2014: Phil Mickelson criticised for verbal attack on USA captain Tom Watson after blasting his leadership skills

Former European captains Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie among those to hit out at Mickelson's outburst following Ryder Cup defeat

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The Independent Online

Phil Mickelson has been strongly criticised for openly questioning the captaincy of Tom Watson, just two hours after the United States lost the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

America's 16 1/2-11 1/2 defeat was their eighth in 10 events against Europe and apparent discontent within the camp surfaced at their team press conference afterwards.

With Watson sitting just a few feet away, Mickelson - who had been left out of a full day's play on Saturday for the first time in 10 Ryder Cup appearances - stated his support for the methods of Paul Azinger, who captained the side to their last win at Valhalla in 2008.

Former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, who now works as an analyst for Golf Channel, described Mickelson as a golfer who had "corrupted the experience of the Ryder Cup".

And six-time major winner Nick Faldo - the losing captain in 2008 - said: "That should have been a private conversation. Phil certainly doesn't respect Tom Watson. He threw his captain right under the bus."


Colin Montgomerie, Europe's winning captain in 2010, said on Sky Sports: "Should we go into this one hour after we've been defeated? The answer is a flat no. You support your captain under all circumstances. In public, you respect and honour your captain."

American player Hunter Mahan attempted to play down the controversy, telling Sky Sports News on Monday: "I don't think there's a spat, it's just two strong-willled guys who want to win.

"Hindsight's 20-20. Both guys worked hard all week - Tom's worked hard for two years - and everyone's just frustrated we couldn't get it done. We have great memories of being together and working together, but we didn't accomplish our goal which is difficult.

"Hopefully we can get something out of this week and do better, Europe's kicked our butts for a few years now. They've got a good formula and we've got to figure out a way we can get closer to them."

Azinger's success was supposedly based on a "pod" system which involved creating small groups of players and allowing them to have a major influence on decisions, while Watson appeared to rely almost exclusively on his opinion and that of his vice-captains.

"There were two things that allowed us to play our best that Paul Azinger did: one was he got everybody invested in the process," Mickelson said in the press conference on Sunday evening.

Phhil Mickelson was scathing of Tom Watson's leadership

"He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod.

"The other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game-plan for us; how we were going to go about doing this, how we were going to go about playing together, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well - we had a real game-plan.

"Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well.

"Unfortunately we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best."

Asked whether he was consulted in any of the decision-making, Mickelson added: "No. Nobody here was, in any decision."

Watson made some significant errors of judgement over the three days - such as not playing in-form rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth on Friday afternoon and not sending out Mickelson and Keegan Bradley to resume their successful partnership on Saturday - but he stood by his decision and brushed aside Mickelson's comments.

"He has a difference of opinion. That's okay. My management philosophy is different than his," he said.

Watson said recently that he would use a modified version of Azinger's pod system, but added on Sunday: "I didn't discount it. I just had a different philosophy right off the bat."