Written by
Bryan Mullen
Oct 18 2023
- 4 min
Mickelson Miami Bynder

MIAMI – One year ago, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka fired some friendly barbs each other’s way during a press conference prior to the Team Championship in Miami.

On Wednesday, it was a little more subdued, but that doesn’t mean the competition isn’t going to be fiery.

Captains for LIV Golf teams who did not receive first-round byes announced their matchup picks for Friday’s quarterfinals. And when it came to Mickelson’s HyFlyers GC and Koepka’s Smash GC, it was clear they were on a collision course to meet. After higher-seeded team captains made their picks, it left the HyFlyers and Smash as the final two teams remaining for what’s expected to be a spectacular matchup at Trump National Doral Miami.

And as captains, Mickelson and Koepka will go head-to-head in a must-see match at the famed Blue Monster.

“I think that Brooks has played some of the best golf of anybody in the world this year,” Mickelson said. “He won the PGA (Championship). He played phenomenal in the majors. Played phenomenal out here. Just won last week. There's a lot of other guys I would rather be playing against.”

The other HyFlyers GC’s singles match will pit Cameron Tringale against Jason Kokrak of Smash GC. The foursomes (alternate shot) match will feature the HyFlyers’ Brendan Steele and James Piot against Chase Koepka and Matthew Wolff.

But all eyes will obviously be on Mickelson, a six-time major champion, and Koepka, who has five major titles.

“I've got my work cut out for me, but I have the utmost respect for him and any time I have a chance to play with him or against him, I enjoy it,” Mickelson said. “He is always professional to play with, play against, and I expect that we are going to have a fun match. But there's also a mutual respect between us that I believe we share. … I'm hoping that I can play some of my best golf because I know I need to, to just make it competitive.”

Koepka’s legendary competitive juices were beginning to flow Wednesday as the matchups were announced.

“I feel good about my match against Phil, and Phil should as well,” Koepka said.

As for the bigger picture of HyFlyers, Mickelson will have to closely follow the play of Piot and might have a tough decision. Piot finished the season in the Drop Zone, meaning he has been relegated and will have to earn a spot back into LIV Golf by playing well in the upcoming Promotions tournament. Even if he does, it might be too late to return to the HyFlyers, according to Mickelson.

“I think (Piot) is an incredible talent,” Mickelson said. “Our team is very invested in his success and we want him to succeed. … But the reality is, I've been fielding calls, as (all the captains) have, from players that are free agents to PGA TOUR players to DP World Tour players that want to come over. The spot's probably going to be filled by the time the qualifying tournament is here.

“So if I'm just being truthful, that's a very real possibility. And even if it is filled, there's always the possibility of a trade to get him back. There are ways this could work out. But I think there's a good chance based on the number of calls that we've had that the spot will be filled fairly soon.”

But first comes Friday’s fireworks. HyFlyers, which has been fueled by Tringale’s consistency all season, is positioned well to make some noise in this week’s sprint to the season-long team title, which will be awarded on Sunday.

Along with the shiny trophy, LIV Golf also recently announced the purse for this week’s Team Championship, a total of $50 million. Each of the 12 LIV Golf teams will receive a different prize amount based on their finishing position. The winning team will receive $14 million, and each winning team member will earn $1.4 million, with the other $8.4 million going into the winning team’s account.