Mickelson becomes ‘the glue guy’ of Ryder Cup team

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“Playing with Phil helps me every week,” Bradley said. “I’ve always played very well after I’ve played in a `Phil match’ because he gets your juices flowing, you start putting balls into the hole. … Without a doubt, he’s prepared me for this moment with these matches.”

The mentoring goes beyond the course, too.

Ask anyone about the team room, and Mickelson’s name invariably comes up. He talked of his and Woods’ dominance on the ping pong table Wednesday, boasting that few of their U.S. teammates can touch them.

“Put us together on that table, and we’re rocking it,” Mickelson said.

(That’s only partly true, Steve Stricker said. Matt Kuchar is actually the Roger Federer of the U.S. ping pong table, and Stricker said Mickelson is putting off that matchup until Sunday. “He doesn’t want to get any bad mojo going before the tournament starts.”)

Those games, the bragging, the trash talking, it all helps make the newcomers feel comfortable, make them feel as if they’re part of the team.

“He’s taken on that role of being the guy that anybody can come to and ask anything. Any sort of advice,” Stricker said. “He’s very approachable, and makes you feel at ease and very fun to be around.”

A four-time major champion, Mickelson’s legacy in golf is secure. But as he gets older _ he turned 42 in June _ events like the Ryder Cup take on even greater importance.

Of his eight Ryder Cup appearances, only two have ended with the Americans celebrating.

“I’ve realized over time how much I look forward to these events, how much I love the Ryder Cup, how much I love being a part of the team and how much I want to play and compete,” Mickelson said.

“These are some of the most special weeks throughout a career,” he added. “They’re something that careers are defined by. And, also, they’re the weeks where relationships are formed that last a lifetime.”

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