Mickelson closes in on Ryder record

GLENEAGLES, SCOTLAND - Phil Mickelson, set to become the first American to play in 10 Ryder Cups, could not resist a jibe on Wednesday at European teamwork and stars Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

The 44-year-old left-hander will move within one of Nick Faldo's all-time record of Ryder Cups played this week at Gleneagles as the United States squad, losers in seven of the past nine meetings, tries to win in Europe for the first time since 1993.

"It has been an exciting event for me over the years," Mickelson said. "As I look back on my career, it's the Ryder Cups and team events I've been on that really provide the great memories, great experiences and accomplishments I like to reflect back on."

Asked about US teamwork, Mickelson took a gentle swipe at world No. 1 McIlroy's lawsuit against his former management agency, which still works with teammate McDowell.

"Not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other and that's a real plus, I feel, heading into this week," Mickelson said. "I couldn't resist. Sorry."

Both McIlroy and McDowell said this week they have become closer friends since putting the matter behind them, but Mickelson clearly didn't mind a barb at their expense.

But US captain Tom Watson likes the spirit behind Mickelson's words. "Phil has been just a wonderful man in the locker room," Watson said. "He's a leader. He's the guy that talks. He talks smack. He talks the locker room talk and he gets people talking back to him. That's what you have to do."

Mickelson's five career Major titles give him a locker room banter trump card in the absence of 14-time Major winner Tiger Woods, US teammate Matt Kuchar said.

"Phil Mickelson throws down the ultimate gauntlet when he doesn't have a comeback to whatever you've said," Kuchar said. "He just says, 'Well, I've won so many Majors, suck on that.' He can say that only if Tiger's not around. He kind of has to look over both shoulders and make sure, because then Tiger gives him his number. I do find that to be a fun one going back and forth."

Mickelson has other issues, the big one being a 14-18-6 career Ryder Cup mark. "It's a record I would like to improve on," he said. "I'm very optimistic I can improve my record. It's going to be a challenge."