‘He seemed to take forever today’: Cameron Smith defeated Phil Mickelson in best match of LIV Golf Miami quarterfinals despite ‘gamesmanship’ from Lefty

DORAL, Fla. — Despite 12 matches simultaneously on the course – eight singles and four foursomes – Friday’s quarterfinal round of the LIV Golf Team Championship left something to be desired.

The day’s marquee match featuring fan-favorite Phil Mickelson and world No. 3 Cameron Smith sported the biggest crowd around Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster and offered the best finish, too.

There’s a difference between a good match and a close match, and this was closer to the latter than former. Starting on No. 9 thanks to LIV’s signature shotgun start format, Smith shot 3 under and Mickelson shot 2 under (with match-play concessions), but neither player made the timely putts to pull away until the par-5 8th, their final hole of the day.

“We both struck the ball good,” said Smith of the match. “I probably didn’t hole as many putts as I’d like, but I was able to get the job done there on the last hole.”

One of just two matches to make it to the final hole, Smith bested Mickelson with a birdie after the veteran barely missed the fairway off the tee and then found a greenside bunker from the rough.

“I’ve been playing pretty good and felt like my game could match up and for the most part we played okay,” said Mickelson after the round, “but we both shot a few under par but not enough to — I felt I needed to shoot 66 or 67 to win this match and didn’t birdie any last seven holes, and that kind of hurt.

“I don’t understand how I missed the fairway (on 18) and that really hurt because I didn’t have a chance to get after the green and make an easy four and a chance at eagle,” he continued. “I had a lie that I had to be a little careful with, make sure I missed it right and try to make my four that way. It’s tough to do against somebody as good as Cameron.”

“Yeah, it was a good match,” added Smith. “I think Phil maybe had some gamesmanship in there a little bit. He seemed to take forever today. I think we were three or four holes behind, so that was a bit painful. But other than that, it was good.”

A pair of 5-and-3 victories tied for the biggest margins of defeat on the day. Peter Uihlein took down James Piot, same with Joaquin Niemann over Shergo Al Kurdi, the replacement for Cleeks GC captain Martin Kaymer, who was forced to withdraw form this week’s event with a wrist injury.

Mickelson’s Hy Flyers were one of four teams eliminated from the $50 million finale, as well as Niemann’s Torque GC, Kevin Na and the Iron Heads and Bubba Watson’s Niblicks. Harold Varner III, who went out first for the Niblicks in place of the injured Watson, took down Smash GC captain Brooks Koepka, 4 and 3.

“I think I would have beat a lot of people. It was good. You’ve just got to take care of what you can take care of,” said Varner of his win. “It just sucks we didn’t make it as a team. I don’t really have much to say because winning isn’t winning if you’re going home.”

The event continues with the semifinals Saturday at 12:15 p.m. ET on YouTube. Dustin Johnson’s 4Aces GC will take on the Cleeks, Sergio Garcia’s Fireballs GC will play Punch GC, with Koepka’s Smash against Ian Poulter’s Majesticks GC and Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC against Louis Oosthuizen’s Stinger GC.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek