Phil Mickelson putted out on Sunday at the BMW Championship, and likely on the 2020-21 season.
Mickelson’s four rounds at Caves Valley (68-77-68-74) added up to 1 under par and left him tied for dead last at the BMW Championship. The numbers also left him 70th in the post-BMW FedExCup standings, which means he will not pass “Go,” will not collect $200 and, although he is not headed straight to jail, he will not be among 30 finalist in the Tour Championship.
Which also means, most likely, he is done for ’21.
In addition to the 30 advancers, those who automatically qualified for Team USA’s Ryder Cup roster also were determined with the conclusion of the BMW. And the romantic notion that Yankee captain Steve Stricker might spend one of his at-large picks on the 2021 PGA Championship winner seemed to be finalized, as well.
That is — don’t bet on Mickelson among the pick-six.
Mickelson has an unprecedented streak of 12 consecutive Ryder Cup appearances and, as mentioned, he has the Wanamaker Trophy, by way of a stunning win at Kiawah Island in May. Both of those conditions, however, carry substantial qualifications.
While no one has made as many Ryder Cup appearances as Mickelson, no one has lost more matches. If the Ryder Cup was a reality television show, his 18-22-7 career mark would make him the "Biggest Loser." He is above water only in singles, where a 8-6-1 mark is something less than dominant.
And yes, he is the reigning PGA champion. That said, his performance at Kiawah Island is his only top-15 finish of the year. Moreover, since a third at the AT&T Pebble Beach in February, 2020, Mickelson has 15 missed cuts and only one other top 20, a T2 at the 2021 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
The 51-year old Mickelson is one of the all-time greats, no question. But if Stricker is feeling nostalgic, it might take more sense to add Stewart Cink to the roster. The 48-year old Cink has won twice this season and played well enough at Caves Valley (T38) to advance to the big finale at East Lake later this week.
Since the PGA Championship, “Lefty” has done more to label that win an anomaly than an indicator, or inspire confidence from a Ryder Cup captain. Keep in mind, Jim Furyk extended Mickelson’s record Ryder Cup streak in 2018 when he made Mickelson a captain’s pick for the matches in France. That was hardly a home run.
Mickelson teamed with Bryson DeChambeau to lose in foursomes to Europe’s Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren, and the 5 and 4 score left little to chance. Mickelson then lost his singles match 4 and 2 to Francesco Molinari.
And when he’s not ripping the USGA for considering shortening driver lengths, Mickelson seems to realize he stands on thin ice. After his opening-round 68 at the BMW, he fessed up.
“The only way for me to have a realistic chance of being picked is to get into the Tour Championship and then play well in the Tour Championship,” Mickelson said.
“I mean, I'm not going to say — I'm certainly a long shot I would say, but I'm starting to play well, and if I can put together three good rounds, you never know.”
At the same time, and for the first time, he tossed in a capitulating white flag. That is, in lieu of a playing role, he gladly would take a vice-captain nod if offered.
“I love being a part of the Ryder Cup in any way, shape or form, so of course,” Mickelson said. “But I’m not thinking about that right now.”
Those thoughts came on Thursday, Chances are, he is thinking about it now.
When the red-splattered action concluded on Sunday, Mickelson sat 20th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, elevated almost solely by his sixth major championship 3 ½ months ago. Capt. Stricker has six picks to play with, but the man with the “Phil Kwon Do Calves,” the guy who “hits bombs,” will need to do some serious line-butting.
We’ve been here before. Mickelson played on each of the first 12 Presidents Cup teams before falling short of qualifying in 2019. He was not picked for a roster spot or offered an assistant’s role by captain Tiger Woods, whose team nonetheless prevailed at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
Stricker already has three assistants identified for next month’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, including Furyk, Zach Johnson and Davis Love III. Months ago, he indicated he would like to add Woods as an additional lieutenant. But Woods is still recovering from the serious injuries he suffered in a car crash on Feb. 23. His availability would seem to be questionable.
With his experience, with his career credentials, with his TV ratings-boosting brand, Mickelson certainly offers an appropriate alternative and a soft landing for Stricker.
Patrick Reed slyly made it into the Tour Championship
Although he still is recovering from double-pneumonia, and an ankle injury, Patrick Reed made it into the 30-man field for the Tour Championship on Thursday. Reed withdrew from the Northern Trust was unable to compete at Caves Valley, but snuck into the final spot on the basis of points gathered his season..
Whether Reed will be able to play in the FedExCup playoffs finale remains to be seen.
The BMW playoff was the fourth in a row
The playoff between Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay was the fourth playoff in succession for the PGA Tour and represented a three-shot swing for The Tour Championship.
That is, the winner — which turned out to be Patrick Cantlay — moved to first in the FedExCup standings and heads to East Lake with a 10-under par score to his advantage. The loser — which turned out to be DeChambeau — finished third in the standings and heads to East Lake at 7-under, three shots in arrears.
Tony Finau already had secured the second position, as well as the 8-under par booster shot.
Tony Finau seems a lock to be a captain's Ryder Cup pick
Finau did not come out unscathed on Sunday. The Northern Trust winner shot a 63 in the final round to finish T15 at BMW, which moved him to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings.
But Cantlay’s performance moved Finau out of the sixth and final automatic berth spot in the final Ryder Cup standings. Finau, who was sixth coming into the championship, got bumped to No. 7 in the standings.
The matter seems inconsequential however, as Finau appears to be a lock for one of Stricker’s captain’s picks.