Three-time U.S. Presidents Cup captain and Masters winner Fred Couples didn’t mince words when asked about old friend Phil Mickelson and LIV Golf.
In an interview with Golf.com, Couples, who is captaining the U.S. squad at the Icons Series this week, shared his thoughts on the Saudi-backed invitational series that is trying to position itself as a rival to the PGA Tour.
“I think this is a family thing for me,” Couples said. “I’m a little peon from Seattle, but I know where the money’s coming from, and I think my family would disown me if I went. Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I’m not going, so I can actually tell you whatever I want to tell you.”
Couples, a Tour loyalist, even brought 28-time Olympic medalist and avid golfer Michael Phelps, who is competing on Couples' Icons team, into the conversation.
“Let me ask you a question,” Couples said to the swimming legend. “You win the L.A. Open or a LIV [event] — L.A., you get a million-nine, LIV you get four [million]. What trophy would you rather have in your house?”
“For me,” Phelps said, “I want to go out there and be a part of history, and try to recreate history. That’s what I was all about.”
“You know what,” Couples said, “here’s a guy who’s won a million [swimming] events and he just said it right on the button.”
Couples isn’t opposed to change or improvement, but he is “disappointed” that players have jumped ship for LIV, not only because the Saudi Arabia government is financially backing it, but also because LIV players have essentially been muzzled, he says.
“These guys — you’ve seen their interviews, right?” Couples said. “Have you ever seen Phil [Mickelson] look so stupid in his life? They know it’s a joke.”
Couples and Mickelson go way back, most recently serving as vice captains on Steve Stricker’s winning U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall, but that friendship seems to be dead in the water after the latter’s defection.
“I don’t think I’ll ever to talk to him again,” Couples said. “What for? I’m not in the same boat as him anymore, and probably never will play golf with him again. I’m not saying that to be mean. We’re just in different orbits.”
Setting aside prevailing topics such as morals and muzzling, Couples ultimately questions the long-term viability of LIV.
While LIV organizers are clearly in it for the long haul, Couples is baffled by the huge sums being offered to players.
“I cannot believe they can pay a guy $150 million for that,” Couples said, referring to LIV’s 54-hole, no cut format, with only 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 isn’t buying it.
“They’re all saying they want to change golf, they’re doing it for the better of golf,” Couples said. “No one has said, ‘Hey, when I look back 50 years from now … we’ll have made this tour [what it is].’ No one has said that. You know why? Because they’re not going to be around in three years.”