Phil Mickelson will be in action as part of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf's $50 million team event
Doral (United States) (AFP) - A $50 million prize money purse is up for grabs at the Trump National this week but while the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series is pulling out all the stops, even their most recognized player accepts it is missing something.
American Phil Mickelson, whose switch from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf caused a storm of criticism, has become the most prominent advocate for the breakaway circuit which he insists is “not going away.”
But while talking up the new format and approach to the game, the six-times major winner accepted that the team championship, lucrative as it may be, can hardly be compared to established team golf competitions such as the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
Asked Wednesday if the experience of those tournaments would prove an asset when action beings on the Blue Monster course on Friday, Mickelson was surprisingly candid.
“There’s some elements of those team events that can apply, that knowledge and experience can help, and there’s some that simply don’t,” he said. “We don’t have anybody sitting out and we don’t have the rich history and probably the pressure that those other events have, whereas this is really a fun event. Like we’re having a blast.”
A fun event it certainly looks likely to be and promotional material promises “big names, big energy. Experience the unrelenting action from top players – 12 teams. Shotgun starts. Good vibes, great eats and live music.”
But while you can catch Snoop Dogg on stage at the LIV party at a Miami Beach venue and enjoy “Apres Golf” parties by the course, will the actual sport matter much?
LIV is hoping that what it is missing in terms of tradition and historical context, it can replace with the lure of enormous prize money.
The action gets under way on Friday with matches such as Smash GC up against Niblicks GC. The GC in the name stands for golf club, although none of the 12 teams are in any real sense a club. The teams couldn’t even be described as franchises, although that may eventually be the aim of the competition’s owners.
- Smith versus Mickelson -
Mickelson’s team is called Hy Flyers GC and with the format forcing captain versus captain in the quarter-finals, he will face British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia, the captain of Punch GC. The format is two singles matches and one foursomes alternate shot.
The stake on Friday is a place in Saturday’s semi-finals but those playing on losing teams will have the pain of defeat eased by a check for $250,000 each.
The same format is used for Saturday’s semis, where the losing teams will head out with $3 million – $750,000 for each of the four players.
Sunday’s final round is stroke play, with all four scores counting. The winning four will divide up $16 million between them, dropping to $4 million to the fourth-placed squad.
“Fun” was the word Mickelson chose to describe the event and there was plenty of light-hearted banter, heavily encouraged by organizers, at the opening press conference, but even amidst the joking, the reference points were inevitably drawn from a more familiar, more traditional world of golf.
Brooks Koepka teased Mickelson about never having made season end world number one and the six-time major winner replied with a barb about his compatriot having a nice green shirt but not owning a green jacket for winning the Masters.
Mickelson’s praise for Smith focused on him winning the British Open this season.
“He has got the Claret Jug. That is the coolest moment, to have that trophy for a year is really special,” he said.
Green jackets, Claret Jugs, Ryder Cups –- golf is a game of deep tradition and it certainly remains to be seen whether the Majesticks versus Iron Heads grows to be part of it.