Doral – Phil Mickelson was looking for a rematch.
Brooks Koepka decided to pass.
LIV Golf on Wednesday arrived at the Trump National Doral to start the week with a team selection press conference turned roast.
The format features the top four teams (Ace, Breakers, Fireballs, and Stinger) to bid farewell in the second round on Saturday. Seeds will play from 5 to 12 on Friday, with 5-7 opponents selected.
Koepka the No. 5 ranked Smash captain. Before the Jupiter resident announced his first-round opponent, Mickelson, the captain of the eighth-seeded Hy Flyers, was hoping to reclaim the 2021 PGA Championship title and face the final round with Koepka.
“If you want a 21 PGA rematch, you can pick our team and we can play each other,” Mickelson said.
Instead, Koepka chose to take on the lowest-ranked team, the Niblicks, and take on Harold Varner III in a match game.
He later accepted Mickelson’s challenge. But he will not come empty-handed.
“If you want to play, we can play,” Koepka said before adding. “Maybe you don’t
Know this because you have never been #1 in the world…when you (#1) finish at the end of the year, they give you a little trophy. I have two of those, so I can bring one to show you.”
Mickelson responded quickly.
“That’s a nice green shirt, do you have a green jacket?” Knowing that the master’s program is not among the four majors that Kopka won.
And so it continued. LIV Golf, funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, will conclude a controversial but successful opening season that polarized the sport and imposed major changes to the PGA Tour to prevent more players from defecting.
Critics say the human lifestyle is a form of “sports washing”, with Saudi Arabia trying to deflect attention from its egregious human rights abuses. Backers are collaborating with CEO Greg Norman of Palm Beach Gardens and LIV ally Donald Trump, the former president and resident of Palm Beach who has hosted two of the eight events this year and will play on Thursday.
“If I just look at LIV Golf and where we are today is where we were six or seven months ago and people say this one died in the water…” said Mickelson. “Here we are today, a force in the game that won’t go away, that has players of this caliber who are bringing professional golf all over the world. It’s really amazing how far LIV Golf has come in the last six or seven months. I think anyone could disagree with that “.
Meanwhile, back at the Club LIV roast set up in the Ivanka Trump Ballroom…
Koepka’s choice to face the Niblicks was not lost on his non-playing captain, Bubba Watson.
“I’m not worried,” Watson told Kupka, 32. “You may have more injuries than me. You’re getting older.”
Koepka has been in decline since 2019, mostly due to injuries. He won LIV’s last singles event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, his first professional win in 20 months.
The four-player squad format contains two singles matches (one between the team captains) and one alternate four-player match.
Ian Poulter, captain of the sixth-seeded Majesticks, chose the No. 9 Iron Heads and captain Kevin Na as the contender.
“The average age of their team is in their fifties,” Na said. “I have some little guns, and I think we’re fine.”
Torque captain Joaquin Niemann of North Palm Beach chose to face Martin Kaymer, the captain of the Cleeks.
“It’s kind of disrespectful, but that’s how it goes here, I think,” Kaymer said.
That left a match between Mickelson and Punch captain Cameron Smith, the highest-rated player on the LIV roster and Open Championship champion. Punch is the eleventh seed.
“Yeah, that’s disgusting,” Mickelson said. “I don’t like the way this was all done. Look at Cam’s smile. Look at how happy he is. It didn’t really work out the way we had ever planned.”
What has been accomplished is the LIV scheme for the first year.
This is the highlight of LIV’s season. The bag, $50 million, is twice the prize money awarded for the first seven events as Norman looks to shine a spotlight on the team’s competition.
The goal for the next 14-team season is for each of the 12 teams to sell ownership stakes and corporate sponsorships. LIV hopes to attract fans globally with teams made up of players from Australia (Punch), UK (Majesticks) and South Africa (Stinger), who have ties to Asia (Iron Heads) and Spanish-speaking golfers (Fireballs).
“We’ve never had a team event like this in professional golf,” Mickelson said. “We’ve never had that kind of game opportunity where the number of matches and the number of players remain the same on Friday and Saturday.
“Normal matches play fewer matches, fewer days and less fun as the week goes on. This week is something completely different.”