MIAMI—A $50-million purse may be serious money but there was a laughter-filled start to the LIV Golf Series finale at Trump National Doral Golf Club on Wednesday, Oct. 26, as the Saudi-backed venture prepared to crown a first team champion.
While $50 million represents the sport's biggest ever pay day, fun, not money, has been the reason most often given by players for jumping from the established PGA Tour to the controversial rebel circuit that brands itself as "Golf, But Louder."
LIV Golf has challenged the traditions of the sport, opting for a rock-and-roll party vibe that offers a departure from classic golf etiquette and promising, 'Good vibes, great eats, and live music."
Play gets underway on Friday with 12 four-man teams hunting a $16-million winner's prize but for the eight captains on the dais on Wednesday, including major winners Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, and Bubba Watson, landing a good jibe seemed more important than money.
"You probably don't know this because you've never been number one in the world," said four-time major winner Koepka to Mickelson.
"That's a beautiful green shirt. Do you have a green jacket?" shot back three-times Masters champion Mickelson.
"I do not, but I will, though, don't worry," returned Koepka.
LIV Golf, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, reportedly paid out nearly $1 billion to lure some of golf's biggest names, such as Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau, away from the PGA Tour.
On top of his signing bonus, Johnson comes into this week having already banked $13.6 million from seven events and Patrick Reed $8.2 million from six tournaments.
World number one Rory McIlroy, enjoyed the best year of his career last season, winning $8.6 million from 16 PGA Tour stops, and an additional $18 million bonus for the FedEx Cup victory.
Trying to replicate the excitement generated by hugely popular team competitions such as the Ryder and Presidents Cups, LIV Golf incorporated a team component into all eight events.
While innovative, the concept and an unfamiliar format has yet to establish itself.
Mickelson, once an anchor of U.S. Ryder Cup squads, candidly described the LIV team event as a fun competition.
"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," said Mickelson, who captains the HyFlyers team and will take on Punch GC captain Smith in Friday's quarter-finals.
"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."