Golf: Mickelson holds on to final U.S. Ryder Cup spot
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson clung on to the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot for the U.S. Ryder Cup team on Sunday, despite putting poorly in the last two rounds of the PGA Championship.
The 42-year-old American, who has played on the previous eight teams, earned his place for a ninth time after closing with a two-over-par 74 at Kiawah Island to tie for 36th place in the season's final major.
His closest challengers in the standings, Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt, failed to make good enough runs on the back nine to dislodge him, though Mickelson was unaware of his position when he had finished his round earlier.
"I haven't looked," four-times major winner Mickelson told reporters after posting a three-over total of 291.
"There's a couple of guys that could pass me, but I haven't been looking. I've just been more worried about trying to get my own game going, so we'll see."
One man who did have his game going was Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who romped to a record eight-stroke victory with a final round 66 that took him to a second major title with a 13-under 275 total.
The automatic qualifiers were Tiger Woods, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Mickelson - the same eight at the start of the week.
The next five in the standings were Hunter Mahan, Stricker, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Van Pelt, and captain Davis Love III will complete the 12-man team by adding four wildcard selections on September 4.
Van Pelt had the best chance to overhaul Mickelson after starting Sunday's final round just four shots off the lead but he failed to take advantage, also signing off with a 74 to tie for 18th.
While Mickelson was unhappy with his scoring and putting over the weekend at Kiawah, he was encouraged by the improvement in his ball-striking.
"The first two days I didn't strike it that well but I fought hard to stay in there," he said. "The last two days my game started to come around. Even though the score wasn't there, I hit a lot of nice shots.
"I wish it had come a week earlier and I was firing on all cylinders coming into this week. But I was happy to see my ball-striking started to come around. I had some opportunities to make a run.
"Unfortunately I putted very poorly the last two days. But I'm looking forward to the upcoming stretch here with the FedExCup (playoffs) and the Ryder Cup hopefully."
The U.S. will take on Ryder Cup holders Europe in the 39th edition of the biennial competition from September 28-30 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by John O'Brien)
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