Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Ryder Cup, Mickelson's dream chance

The U.S. has the lead heading into the final day of the Ryder Cup. After two consecutive beatings, and five losses in the last six competitions, the Americans have a chance to win the cup for the first time since 1999.

For Phil Mickelson, this is his chance to make a name for himself and cement his career legacy. Tiger Woods is not at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. Meaning, the world's best golfer is not leading the U.S. charge. That leaves Mickelson as the U.S. team leader.

While Mickelson has won several majors, he has lived in Woods' shadow the last 10 years. But even Woods has not been able to bring multiple Ryder Cup victories. The U.S. has been the underdog in this event almost since Woods announced after the U.S. Open he wouldn't play the rest of the year.

Mickelson said each of the five matches feel like the final round of a major, all jammed into three days. If the Americans can handle the pressure and hold on in the singles matches to win the cup, much of that praise will rest on Mickelson's shoulders. While not playing brilliantly at times, he has done well, accounting for 2 full points in his four foursome matches, the second highest total on the American squad.

Mickelson, with a U.S. win, will be able to say he led a U.S. team to a victory over a better European team, without the best player in the world. Woods hasn't been able to lead U.S. teams to victory that were better than Europe on paper.

Mickelson will play Justin Rose in the fourth match of the day today, to help set the American tone. Winning The Masters may have been Mickelson's greatest golf moment, but winning this Ryder Cup may be his career-cementing moment.

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