GOLF: RYDER CUP 2004: I'VE HAD MY PHIL OF THIS; Sutton Disbands US Dream Team after Blast at Mickelson
Byline: Euan McLean
HAL SUTTON declared he 'owed it to history' when announcing his dream pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would launch the United States' Ryder Cup challenge.
Well they went down in history all right - as the most hapless partnership since Laurel and Hardy. But the Americans are not laughing with these two.
Pairing the big guns was supposed to be the tactical masterstroke that would define Sutton's captaincy - and might yet do so for all the wrong reasons.
It was a total disaster.
The arch-rivals for every week of the year except this one didn't gel, didn't cajole each other and were often posted missing when one or the other might have used a little help reading a putt.
Little things these may be but the constant interaction between their European opponents showed those wee things add up to something significant.
Mickelson in particular toiled, especially on the tee where his Callaway woods - controversially added to his bag last week in place of his trusty Titleist brand - got him into all sorts of bother.
That fact wasn't lost on Sutton, enraged when another horror shank off the tee on 18 ultimately cost the 'flagship' duo in Friday's afternoon foursomes against Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
Only one thing threatens to inflict more psychological damage on a team than seeing their main men turn a three-shot lead into defeat - seeing the captain hang them out to dry for it.
Sutton's eagerness to make Mickelson a scapegoat for the US slumping to a record low first day of 1.5 to Europe's 6.5 was a naive response that might have split the ranks. He said: 'We'll all want answers to why he struggled but the person who's going to have to wonder most about that is Phil.
'But no one will be beating Phil Mickelson up more than Phil himself after this.
'Tiger was so frustrated. He thought he was on the verge of playing really good and just never could get anything going. They just weren't matching up good.
'When they got beat in the morning I thought they'd be on fire in the afternoon and they started out hot to go three up after four holes.
'I wouldn't have changed clubs the week before a Ryder Cup but I'm not Phil Mickelson. Phil is capable of playing good golf with anything, that's what I'll say.'
While Mickelson's decision to switch woods has no doubt angered Sutton, the captain must not be allowed to shovel the blame away from his own doorstep. His decision to let the Masters champ excuse himself from Wednesday's practice rounds with team-mates was questionable.
The excuse was Mickelson never plays on the Wednesday before a big tournament - but what message does that send to the other players, especially Woods, who mess up their own preparations to practise as a team.
Even more baffling was the way Sutton treated Mickelson on Thursday, dispatching him out of sight to Oakland Hills' second course with two boxes of the Nike balls favoured by Tiger Woods.
His thinking? Well, one of them will have to use an unfamiliar ball in the foursomes and Mickelson was the man made to adjust.
So after missing two important practice rounds on the south course and using an unfamiliar ball and new woods, is it any wonder he toiled?
For these reasons Sutton must carry the can for a partnership that, on paper, looked unbeatable but in reality wasn't worth the A4 sheet it was written on.
But Mickelson yesterday insisted his decision to change clubs was NOT to blame for his shocker - he was just nervous.
The world No. …