If press conferences for controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf have proven to be anything in the circuit’s first year, they have been theater.
Ranging from the disingenuous (players saying they didn’t bolt to the league for the enormous sums of money thrown their way), to straight up propaganda (sports washing Saudi Arabia’s abhorrent human rights record), the sessions have provided a certain degree of insight. But Wednesday’s installment for the season-finale at Trump National Doral outside Miami at least offered some levity.
When LIV unveiled its team matchups for its final tournament of the year that begins Friday, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka couldn’t help but take digs at one another.
With a format that allows the highest-seeded team, captained by Koepka, to pick the team it wants to play, it ended up that Mickelson’s team will instead face the team led by World No. 3 and reigning British Open and Players champ Cam Smith. As the captains sat down to find out who they’ll play in their singles match-play showdowns that are part of the format, the 52-year-old Mickelson noted that he beat the 20-years-younger Koepka at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by two.
“If you want a rematch of the ’21 PGA you could pick our team,” Mickelson said.
To which Koepka retorted, “…you’ve never been No. 1 in the world.”
Mickelson, who counts six majors among his 45 PGA Tour victories, has only gotten as high as No. 2, while Koepka reached No. 1 in 2018. He also pointed out that Mickelson has never won a U.S. Open, a tournament which he infamously finished runner-up in six times.
Never at a loss for words, Mickelson shot back, “That’s a beautiful green shirt; do you have a green jacket?”
Mickelson of course has won the Masters on three occasions. Koepka’s majors came at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, both of which he won twice.
The top four four-man teams in LIV this season received a bye into Saturday’s semifinals. Friday’s action will include teams seeded Nos. 5 through 12 with three matches taking place: two singles matches and a foursomes match. The team that accumulates two points moves on to Saturday’s semifinals.
Because the rules require that captains play each other in a head-to-head match, Mickelson’s first match will be against Smith. Koepka, meanwhile, will face Harold Varner III.
The teams will play for a whopping $50 million purse, with $16 million of that paid to the winning team, split among four players.
Though Mickelson has struggled throughout his first season on LIV, he did win at Doral in 2009.
“Twenty years ago,” Smith said. “I was two when Phil won around here.”
“I think you were at that clinic that I gave,” Mickelson shot back. “It’s nice to see you were paying attention.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost