Tom Watson took the blame for his communication with his players in another American loss at the Ryder Cup, and the 65-year-old captain said he called Phil Mickelson last week to clear the air.
"I regret that my words may have made the players feel that I didn't appreciate their commitment and dedication to winning," Watson said Saturday in a statement issued through the PGA of America. "My intentions throughout my term as captain were both to inspire and to be honest."
Mickelson indirectly called out Watson in an awkward news conference after Europe's 16-1/2-11-1/2 victory in Scotland, the eighth out of the last 10 times it has won the event. Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from a winning formula they had under Paul Azinger in 2008.
Watson's statement was issued a day after ESPN reported that four unidentified people in the U.S. team room on the night before the final round said Watson blamed the players for their performance in foursomes - Europe went unbeaten in both sessions to build a 10-6 lead going into singles - and scoffed at a gift from the players by saying it was meaningless if they didn't win.
The gift, signed by the players, was a replica of the Ryder Cup.
ESPN reported that Watson denigrated some of the European players and only praised the play of U.S. rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Watson was the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history. He was the last U.S. captain in 1993 to win the Ryder Cup away from home.
"The guys gave everything. They played their hearts out," Watson said in his statement. "I was proud to get to know each and every one of them."
Mickelson was playing his 10th Ryder Cup - no American has played more - and said the U.S. team was not involved in any decision. He praised Azinger for his "pods" system that involved the players when they won in 2008.
Watson dismissed that during the postmatch news conference, saying winning the Ryder Cup was not about pods and that it simply took 12 players to win.
The ESPN report said Mickelson was the last to speak during the team meeting, kept his back turned to Watson and tried to rally the players. ESPN said the U.S. team members were joined by their wives or girlfriends (except for Rickie Fowler) as well as their caddies and their significant others. Some of the hotel staff were in the room, as were a few members of the PGA of America staff. In all, more than 40 people were there when Watson started by saying, according to ESPN's report: "You stink at foursomes.''
Watson said Saturday in his statement that he had a "candid conversation" with Mickelson last week "and it ended with a better understanding of each other's perspectives."
"Phil's heart and intentions for our team's success have always been in the right place," Watson said. "Phil is a great player, has great passion and I admire what he's done for golf."
Watson said the loss fell to him: "I was their captain. In hindsight, whatever mistakes that were made were mine."