DORAL — Phil Mickelson was looking for a rematch.
Brooks Koepka decided to pass.
LIV Golf arrived Wednesday at Trump National Doral to kick off the week with a team selection news conference that turned into a roast.
The format has the top four teams (Aces, Crushers, Fireballs, Stinger) receiving byes into Saturday's second round. Seeds 5 through 12 will play Friday, with 5-7 selecting their opponents.
Koepka captains No. 5 seed Smash. Before the Jupiter resident announced his first-round opponent, Mickelson, captain of the eighth-seeded Hy Flyers, was hoping to relive his 2021 PGA Championship title and final-round showdown with Koepka.
"If you want a rematch of the '21 PGA, you could pick our team and we could play each other," Mickelson said.
Instead, Koepka chose to face the lowest-seeded team, Niblicks, and face Harold Varner III in match play.
He did accept Mickelson's challenge for later. But he will not come empty-handed.
"If you want to play, we can play," Koepka said before adding. "You probably don't
know this because you've never been No. 1 in the world ... when you finish (No. 1 ) at the end of the year they give you a little trophy. I've got two of those, so I could bring one of them to show you."
Mickelson quickly countered.
"That's a beautiful green shirt, do you have a green jacket?" knowing the Masters is not among the four majors won by Koepka.
And so it continued. LIV Golf, financed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, will conclude a controversial yet successful inaugural season that has polarized the sport and forced major changes on the PGA Tour to prevent more players from defecting.
Detractors say LIV is a form of "sportswashing," Saudi Arabia attempting to distract from its atrocious human rights violations. Supporters are in lockstep with CEO Greg Norman of Palm Beach Gardens and LIV ally Donald Trump, the former president and Palm Beach resident who has hosted two of the eight events this year and will be playing in Thursday's pro-am.
"If I'm just looking at LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six, seven months ago and people are saying this is dead in the water ...," Mickelson said. "Here we are today, a force in the game that's not going away, that has players of this caliber moving professional golf throughout the world. It's pretty remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don't think anybody can disagree with that."
Meanwhile, back at the Club LIV roast that took place in the Ivanka Trump Ballroom ...
Koepka's choice to face Niblicks was not lost on its non-playing captain, Bubba Watson.
"I'm not worried," Watson told the 32-year-old Koepka. "You might have more injuries than me. You are getting older."
Koepka's game has declined since 2019, much of it due to injuries. He did win LIV's final individual event at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, his first professional win in 20 months.
The format for the four-man teams has two singles matches (one of those between the team captains) and one alternate shot foursomes match.
Ian Poulter, captain of the sixth-seeded Majesticks, picked No. 9 seed Iron Heads and captain Kevin Na as an opponent.
"Their team average age is like in the 50s," Na said. "I've got some young guns, and I think we're all right."
Torque captain Joaquin Niemann of North Palm Beach chose to face Martin Kaymer, captain of Cleeks.
"It's a little bit disrespectful, but that's how it goes here, I guess," Kaymer said.
That left a match between Mickelson and Punch captain Cameron Smith, the highest-ranked player on LIV's roster and reigning Open champion. Punch is the 11th seed.
"Yeah, this sucks," Mickelson said. "I don't like the way this all worked out. Look at Cam smile. Look how happy he is. This didn't really work out the way we had planned at all."
What has worked out is LIV's blueprint for Year 1.
This is LIV's signature event of its season. The purse, $50 million, is double that of the prize money awarded for the first seven events as Norman looks to put the spotlight on the team competition.
The objective for next year's 14-team season is for each of the 12 teams to sell ownership stakes and corporate sponsorships. LIV is hoping to attract fans globally with teams made up of players from Australia (Punch), the U.K. (Majesticks), South Africa (Stinger), with 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 this type of match-play opportunity where the number of matches, the number of players continue to stay the same Friday and Saturday.
"Normal match play you have fewer and fewer matches and less and less interesting days as the week goes on. This week is something totally different."
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Phil Mickelson calls LIV Golf 'a force in the game' that is not going away