LIV Golf: Phil Mickelson calls breakaway tour ‘force that is not going away’

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Phil Mickelson has been an outspoken advocate of the LIV tour

Phil Mickelson has said the LIV Golf series is a “force in the game that is not going away”.

The inaugural season concludes this weekend at the Trump National club near Miami, with a team championship featuring $50m (£43m) in prize money.

Mickelson said LIV Golf had defied expectations and was here to stay.

“If I’m just looking at LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six months ago and people are saying this is dead in the water,” he said.

“We’re past that, and here we are today, a force in the game that’s not going away.

“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.”

The breakaway Saudi Arabia-backed series has caused controversy, with Rory McIlroy expressing fears of an “irreparable” split in golf.

“This ‘us versus them’ thing has gotten way out of control already,” the Northern Irishman told the Guardianexternal-link.

“If the two entities keep doubling down in both directions, it’s only going to become irreparable. We are going to have a fractured sport for a long time. That is no good for anyone.”

McIlroy also described the breakaway LIV tour as a “betrayal”, and said he worried the series would jeopardise events such as the Ryder Cup.

Mickelson declined to respond directly to McIlroy’s comments at a media conference on Wednesday, instead praising McIlroy’s season and promoting the format of the final event.

Play gets under way on the 18th hole at the course in Doral, known as the ‘Blue Monster’, on Friday with 12 four-man teams chasing a $16m (£13.7m) first-place prize.

The bottom eight teams, as determined by results in the previous seven events, compete in matches to decide who will play against the top four seeded line-ups on Saturday.

For each head-to-head team match-up, three matches will take place: two singles contests and one alternate-shot (foursomes) match.

All 32 players will compete simultaneously in a shotgun start and matches will be played until a winner is determined. Each match winner receives one point, and the first team to earn two points will advance to Saturday’s semi-finals.

Teams are captained by familiar major winners such as Dustin Johnson, Mickelson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau.

“We’ve never had a team event like this in professional golf,” said Mickelson.

The American has previously said that by joining the LIV Golf series he has picked the “winning side” in the dispute that has dominated the sport this year.

“Until both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve,” Mickelson, who reportedly received a $200m (£176.3m) fee for joining LIV, said earlier this month.

“I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards and I love the side that I’m on.”

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