CHASKA, Minn. – The PGA of America has altered its approach to the Ryder Cup with the tournament returning to the U.S. in 2016 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. Perhaps the biggest change could be a team without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Captain Davis Love III said it’s hard to envision a U.S. team without Woods or Mickelson, but the two are no longer certainties as the Americans try to solve the European stranglehold on the Ryder Cup.
Woods is ranked 299th in the world and recently underwent another back surgery. Mickelson is ranked 23rd, but hasn’t won since the British Open in 2013.
“It would be hard to imagine,” Love said Tuesday at a year-out press conference at Hazeltine. “They’re all my teammates that I’ve played with. We’re all getting older.”
The 2016 Ryder Cup is Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 at Hazeltine in suburban Chaska, the site of the PGA Championship in 2002 and 2009.
Europe extended its dominance with a win in 2014 at Gleneagles. The U.S. has won the cup four times since 1985. Woods and Mickelson have been mainstays on those teams. Mickelson’s first Ryder Cup appearance was in 1995, followed by Woods’ debut in 1997.
Woods’ recent back surgery ended his 2015 season. Mickelson was chosen for the upcoming President’s Cup by captain Jay Haas, despite lacking the points to qualify.
“Phil gets on a roll about every other year now, so maybe next year,” Love said. “I mean, his off year is really, really good. I think, in talking to him, he’s excited about playing. He’s not done yet. He wants to make this next team. If he doesn’t make the team, he’s going to be involved and I know he doesn’t want to work for me. I think he’d rather play for me.
“So, I have a feeling he’s going to be strong and motivated to make the next team, and obviously Tiger wants to get healthy and play.”
Mickelson spoke out during the last Ryder Cup captained by Tom Watson and the Americans have tried to find a new way to break their losing ways.
The PGA America assembled past captains and players – including Love, Woods and Mickelson – to alter the approach.
“We’ve had a lot of losing seasons in a row and we need to throw the game plan away and start over,” Love said. “We need a new front office. We need a new attitude. The PGA of America, they rode home after losing again over in Gleneagles and they were not happy about it.”
Love said he’s consulted Woods, Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, along with former captains Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw and Dave Stockton.
Love will be leading a team built on the young players like Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. Woods and Mickelson will have 2016 to show they can add to their Ryder Cup resumes.
“They’re just two of a lot of players that have stressed to me that they want to play on a winning Ryder Cup team,” Love said. “The tone has changed a little bit on our side. Guys aren’t saying, ‘I want to make your team.’ They’re saying, ‘I want to play on a winning Ryder Cup team.’ They’re not looking at it as my team, they want to play on a winning U.S. team. So, Tiger, Phil, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, all those guys, they’re excited about making this team and making it a winning team.”