US star reveals Tiger Woods’ Ryder Cup rant about Phil Mickelson in front of former wife
Golfing superstars Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods shared a rivalry for a generation and had an infamous team partnership at the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in 2004
It was the rivalry that defined a golfing generation. Phil Mickelson, the once lovable ‘Lefty’ with preposterous talent, who could wilt, but was blessed with a magic wand around the greens. And Tiger Woods, the game’s indomitable, remorseless superstar who transcended his sport with a never-seen-before destructive winners mentality.
Now, golf’s biggest stars of the last two decades could not have more contrasting reputations. Mickelson is saddled with the unlikely tag of golf’s pariah due to his allegiance with LIV Golf and his inflammatory comments on the rebel series’ financial backers in Saudi Arabia. Woods, meanwhile, is a staunch supporter of the game’s current eco-system and has lifted his mask of invincibility to show his true character in recent years.
That Mickelson and Woods were entangled in an individual battle for greatness hinted that a pairing together at the Ryder Cup would not be the perfect marriage. And US Captain Hal Sutton’s decision to pair his two big hitters together at Oakland Hills in 2004 was, perhaps unsurprisingly, an unmitigated disaster.
The duo were given two days notice that they were playing together in Michigan, and lost both the Friday morning fourballs match against Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, and their afternoon foursomes match against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
Woods and Mickelson’s contrasting personalties fuelled their on-course rivalry and that did not bode well in a format that requires teamwork and understanding. Europe eventually ran out 18.5 – 9.5 winners in their biggest victory in Ryder Cup history.
And eight-time PGA Tour winner Fred Funk, also in Sutton’s 2004 US team, had the best seat in the house as he witnessed a furious Woods embark on a rant about his partnership with Mickelson. Woods was in a courtesy car heading back to the team hotel with ex-wife Elin Nordegren and Funk after defeat in the morning session.
“I said, ‘How was it?'” Funk told the GOLF Subpar Podcast. “And he goes, ‘How was what?’ I go ‘How was it?’ And he doesn’t reply. And I go, ‘Tiger, how was it with Phil?’. And that was the year [Mickelson] just switched over to Callaway with all new equipment. He was never with us all week, he was always somewhere else testing clubs, testing balls, trying to figure out.”
“And [Tiger] just said, ‘He doesn’t know where the ball is going, he doesn’t know how far to hit it, he can’t keep it on the golf course, he didn’t help me one hole!’ … So we are just laughing.”
Woods has never been able to arrest his own poor Ryder Cup form, with an all-time record of 13-21-3 across eight different events pointing to a stronger priority being placed on his own individual glory.
Mickelson, meanwhile, later hit out at former captain Sutton for the pairing and the proximity of its announcement as he was forced to learn Woods’ golf ball in a limited time period.
“It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course in an effort to crash-course and learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing,” Mickelson told Golf Digest in 2016.
“Had we known a month in advance, we might have been able to make it work. I think we probably would have made it work. But we didn’t know until two days prior. That’s an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely.”