BERNARD Gallacher, a three-times Ryder Cup captain, has claimed Phil Mickelson will soon “regret” turning on Tom Watson in the aftermath of a disappointing defeat for the Americans at Gleneagles.
Mickelson, who was left out of both Saturday sessions on his tenth appearance in the event, sparked a storm by criticising the five-times Open champion as Watson sat only a few feet away, following Europe’s 16½-11½ victory in Perthshire.
Both Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo, two former Ryder Cup captains, claimed Mickelson should have kept his thoughts to himself, the latter accusing last year’s Open and Scottish Open champion of “throwing his captain under the bus”.
Gallacher, speaking as he left Gleneagles after attending Europe’s celebrations on Sunday night after their eighth success in ten matches, said: “Phil wears his heart on his sleeve – but I think it was the wrong moment to start a debrief. I think it needs to be done in the cold light of day, when everyone has calmed down. Nothing really works in the heat of the moment, the pressure and disappointment of defeat. They’re all looking around to blame somebody. It needs to be done when everyone has calmed down. I think Phil will regret it in a few days. He will regret saying that.”
After suffering his eighth defeat in the event, Mickelson called on the PGA of America to restore a ‘pod system’ that paid dividends for Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008 rather than turning to former captains, as was the case with Watson. “I think it was very unfair,” added Gallacher in jumping to Watson’s defence. “At the end of the day, the players weren’t good enough. That showed in the foursomes, when they lost both sessions heavily – and lost the Ryder Cup. There were three players (Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson) he’d have loved on his team, two missing through illness and one for personal reasons. That’s how close it is. In the old days, they could have put any team out and given us a good match. Now, those three players are critical.”
As a captain himself, Gallacher tasted defeat twice – at Kiawah Island in 1991 then The Belfry two years later – before making it third-time lucky with a nail-biting victory at Oak Hill in 1995. “Everybody wants to pull apart every decision when you’re a losing captain – I know all about that,” he admitted. “But the Americans lost it on the course, the players lost it, simple as that.”
Montgomerie, speaking on Sunday night, also said he’d been surprised by the timing of Mickelson’s comments. “Should you go into this one hour after being defeated? The answer is a flat no,” said Europe’s winning captain in 2010. “You support your captain under all circumstances. In public, you respect and honour your captain.”
Faldo, who is only starting to be criticised now by some of his players for a poor captaincy in Louisville six years ago, agreed, saying: “That should have been a private conversation. Phil certainly doesn’t respect Tom Watson. He threw his captain right under the bus.”
Watson’s opposite number at Gleneagles, Paul McGinley, said any criticism of the 65-year-old’s captaincy was unjustified. “He’s a big person,” said the Irishman. “He’s got so much credibility.”