Gleneagles, Scotland — Phil Mickelson is certainly proud to be playing in his U.S. record 10th consecutive Ryder Cup. He'd just rather not be reminded about those other records he holds in golf's premier team event.
Mickelson has won five majors in his career but he's also a symbol of recent U.S. failures against Europe in a competition the Americans used to dominate.
Since playing in his first Ryder Cup 19 years ago, Mickelson has been on the losing side seven out of nine times. He's won 14 of his matches, but lost a U.S. record 18 matches — including a record five defeats in singles.
So, he was asked by a British reporter on Wednesday, is the Ryder Cup record a "blot" on your resume?
"I wouldn't say it as eloquently as you did by calling it a blot," a smiling Mickelson said. "But I think that it's a record that I'd like to improve on."
The reporter pressed on, asking whether he was stung by the knowledge that he has lost more matches than any other American.
"Are you always this half empty?" Mickelson said with a laugh. "Is that how you look at things? Because we're more optimistic here."
But the numbers don't lie. And Lefty knows that.
"Absolutely, I would like to improve my record," he said. "That's certainly a goal. It doesn't take too much to improve my winning percentage, I'll say that. "
The 44-year-old Mickelson has qualified automatically for 10 Ryder Cups going back to 1995, when he went 3-0 as a rookie at Oak Hill. He hasn't required a captain's pick once during that time.
"It's 20 years of Ryder Cups, I just can't believe it," Mickelson's teammate Keegan Bradley said. "It's amazing because you have to stay healthy, you've got to stay sharp with your game. It's going to be tough for somebody to do that. You've got to be super consistent for 20 years, which is almost impossible."
Mickelson and Bradley are expected to line up again together in Friday's opening matches. They teamed up to go 3-0 two years ago in Medinah, where Europe overcame a 10-6 deficit after the first two days to win 14 ½-13 ½.
"I'm going to play again with Keegan," Mickelson said. "I don't think I'm letting go of any secrets here. We've played together these first few rounds and we seem to have a good partnership, and he brings out some of my best golf."
Neither Mickelson nor Bradley has won a tournament this year. But the two feed off each other when it comes to the Ryder Cup. Bradley said he has been exchanging regular text messages with Mickelson, sending him video highlights of their matches together.
"We just keep telling each other that there's no one we'd rather be out there with than each other," Bradley said.
Mickelson went out of his way to play up the Europeans as big favorites on home soil, suggesting the U.S. will have to play its best just to keep close, let alone win. The last time the U.S. won on the road was in 1993 at The Belfry.
"We're here without Tiger Woods," Mickelson said. "We're without Dustin Johnson. We're without Jason Dufner. And we're playing a team that has players like McIlroy and (Henrik) Stenson who have played just incredible golf over the years. … We have not won here in 20 years. We've got a team that is a heavy underdog and the expectations certainly aren't high. … We need to play our best golf to make it a close match."
Yet, Mickelson couldn't resist a playful dig at his opponents.
Asked whether the Americans were not as closely knit as the Europeans, he replied: "Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other."
That was a reference to the lawsuit involving McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. McIlroy is suing his former management company. McDowell, represented by the same company, has been dragged into the case.
"I couldn't resist," Mickelson said. "Sorry."