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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:00 am

Mickelson legacy continues in team event

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Phil Mickelson is the voice of experience in team competition, and there's no comparison.

He was on the putting green Wednesday morning at the Presidents Cup, explaining to some of the six rookies on the American team why the teams might change for the final day of practice, the schedule after the team photo, just about anything short of how to tie their shoes.

Mickelson has played in the Presidents Cup every year since it began in 1994. He has played in every Ryder Cup since 1995. Add them up and this will be his 23rd consecutive time playing in a team event.

For someone such as PGA champion Justin Thomas, playing in his first one, that can be hard to fathom.

“I can't, especially because I was 1 when he playing in his first one, which is really crazy to think,” Thomas said. “I would love to see what kind of person he was then. To be that good for that long and to have the reputation that he does, being that much of a leader, a role model in the team rooms ... I don't know if it will ever be topped.”

Playing on so many Presidents Cup teams has mainly been a happy occasion. The Americans have lost only one of them, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, and tied the International team in 2003 in South Africa.

The International team, with Nick Price as captain for a third straight time, gets another chance to end a losing streak that is getting out of hand.

We've got a lot of power,” Price said. “I've always said this – 18-hole match play is anybody's game.”

It's been in the American game in this format, and Mickelson always figures into the equation.

That ultimately might be one of his greatest legacies when the Presidents Cup begins today, and Mickelson heads to the first tee with Kevin Kisner in a foursomes match against Jason Day and Marc Leishman.

It will his 52nd match in the Presidents Cup, and 97th match overall in either cup.

His 42 victories on the PGA Tour put him at No. 9 on the career list, three behind Walter Hagen. He has five majors. He has earned just over $83 million, second only to Tiger Woods.

As for Woods, he made it back from his fourth surgery in time for the Presidents Cup. Just not to play. He even acknowledged Wednesday a scenario that he doesn't return to competition because he's at a stage where he's only hitting 60-yard shots.

“Like I said, the pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven't hit a golf shot yet,” he said.