Three-time US Presidents Cup captain and Masters winner Fred Couples didn’t mince his words when asked about longtime friend Phil Mickelson and LIV Golf.
In an interview with Golf.comKoppels, who is captain of the American squad at the Icon series shared his thoughts this week on the Saudi-backed invitational series trying to position itself as a rival to the PGA Tour.
“I think this is a family thing for me,” Couples said. “I’m from Seattle, but I know where the money is coming from, and I think my family would disown me if I went. That’s easy for me to say, of course, because I’m not going, so I can basically tell you anything I want to tell you.”
A Tour loyalist, Koppels even brought 28-time Olympic medalist and avid golfer Michael Phelps, who is on the Couples Icons team, into the conversation.
“Let me ask you a question,” Couples told the swimming legend. “You win the LA Open or a LIV [event] – LA, you get a million-nine, LIV you get four [million]† Which trophy would you rather have in your house?”
“For me,” Phelps said, “I want to go out and be a part of history and try to recreate history. That’s what it was all about for me.”
“You know what,” Couples said, “here’s a man who won a million [swimming] events and he just said it on the button.”
Couples is not against change or improvement, but he is “disappointed” that players have switched to LIV, not only because the Saudi government is supporting it financially, but also because LIV players have been essentially muzzled, he says.
“These guys – you’ve seen their interviews, right?” Couples said. “Have you ever had Phil . seen [Mickelson] look so stupid in his life? They know it’s a joke.”
Stellen and Mickelson go way back, most recently as vice-captain of Steve Stricker’s winning US Ryder Cup team last fall, but that friendship seems to be dying after the latter’s defection.
“I don’t think I’ll ever talk to him again,” Couples said. “What for? I’m not in the same boat with him anymore and probably never will golf with him again. I’m not saying that to be mean. We’re just in different lanes.”
Aside from prevailing issues such as morality and muzzles, questions ultimately raise questions about the long-term viability of LIV.
While LIV organizers are clearly in it for the long haul, Couples is baffled by the sheer amounts of money being offered to players.
“I can’t believe they can pay someone $150 million for that,” Couples said, referring to LIV’s 54-hole, no-cut format, with just eight events scheduled this year.
Whether players say their decision to move was for the lighter schedule, life-changing payday, or to grow the game, Couples doesn’t believe it.
“They all say they want to change golf, they’re doing it for the better of golf,” Couples said. “Nobody has said, ‘Hey, when I look back in 50 years… we made this tour’ [what it is]† Nobody said that. You know why? Because they won’t be there in three years.”