Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson

Ben Coley on Phil Mickelson and LIV Golf following Brooks Koepka's PGA win

You will not be surprised to learn that LIV Golf is seeking to exploit Brooks Koepka’s PGA win in any way it can. This was not just expected but perfectly understandable. In golfing parlance, it is a strategy with low risk and high reward.

Greg Norman couldn't separate praise for Koepka and his conclusion that LIV Golf is now fully validated, but that wasn't the saddest part. Ian Poulter, the Ryder Cup stalwart who played with Viktor Hovland on the last European team, couldn't conceal his delight that his new side had won. 'Any good' followed by around 50 question marks and not a word at all of Hovland's game effort in defeat. 'Take a bow my friend,' he added.

If you think that's unfair, note that Poulter's twitter output when Koepka won the 2019 PGA Championship was only about himself. After Shinnecock, he was focused solely on the USGA's set-up of the course. He had nothing to say when Koepka won at Erin Hills or Bellerive, nor when Jon Rahm won the Masters. When Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia battled for that tournament in 2017, Poulter reacted by offering both his respect. This week he had to choose one side.

Phil Mickelson went a step further and declared that he had seen enough, doing his best Roman Roy despite not yet having all of the results. According to Mickelson, we now know, after a year, that LIV Golf is the best way for every player in the sport to prepare for majors. We know this because Koepka won the PGA Championship. Never mind focusing on the player himself, now the most successful of the post-Woods/Mickelson age. Let's make his achievement something else.

Mickelson may wish to check his summer schedule, one he is contractually bound to, and remind himself what happened 10 years ago.

Back then, before Phil the Thrill traded in his moniker for one that still rhymes, he produced a dazzling display to win the Scottish Open. One week later and he put in what he used to call the performance of his career, presumably now surpassed by the time he just edged out Jed Morgan to finish 45th in Tulsa. Mickelson won the Open at Muirfield to get within one of the career grand slam and he did it with the best golf of his life.

Mickelson had known when he left Castle Stuart that he was primed for what followed. "I couldn't think of a better way to get prepared for next week," he said. "It makes next week a really good opportunity in that I'm playing well and have some confidence now on some links golf."

A decade on we're to believe that he has found an even better formula: three rounds at Valderrama, three more at Centurion. Those players heading to Scotland to follow the path which has led Cam Smith and Collin Morikawa to the Open, they will be left to rue the fact that they weren't pitching out sideways after missing a fairway in Sotogrande, that they aren't enjoying LIV London's party in Hertfordshire.

Deep down, Mickelson knows this to be nonsense, but the game has changed. We are about three episodes from him appearing on the pitch at St James' Park in a Newcastle United shirt, five from him being Anthony Joshua's cut man in a past-their-best joust in Jeddah.

Herein lies the sinister part. On the face of it, Mickelson fails to grasp the nuance, the fact that everyone is different. He fails to see that for all Koepka has been superb, Dustin Johnson hit the ball like a pathetic impression of the modern great that he is. He shows no desire to ponder whether younger players might benefit from a busier schedule rather than older ones like him or those with health issues like Koepka.

But Mickelson understands all of this. He knows exactly what he's doing. He knows that the antidote to Reply Guys is simply to turn off replies. It’s what made him such a logical investment on the part of Saudi Arabia.

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