MIAMI: HyFlyers GC and Cleeks GC pulled off the upsets as lower-seeded teams during Friday’s quarterfinal matches of the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami and will face the top two seeds in Saturday’s semi-finals at Trump National Doral.
HyFlyers’ captain, Phil Mickelson, lost his high-profile singles match to Smash GC captain, Brooks Koepka, six and four, in a battle of LIV Golf’s most decorated major winners.
But teammate Cameron Tringale beat Jason Kokrak in the other singles match, while the duo of Brendan Steele and James Piot beat Chase Koepka and Matthew Wolff in foursomes to give the ninth-seeded HyFlyers a 2-1 victory.
Mickelson said: “So excited about these guys. So proud of what they did, the way they played. It’s inspiring. Look forward to the opportunity these guys gave me.”
Cleeks GC captain, Martin Kaymer, lost to Ripper GC captain, Cameron Smith, after a late rally to send his match to an extra hole. But Richard Bland beat Marc Leishman in the other singles, while Graeme McDowell and Bernd Wiesberger claimed a thrilling match against Matt Jones and Jediah Morgan in foursomes that went three extra holes. McDowell rolled in the winning birdie putt from 20 feet to give the 10th-seeded Cleeks a 2-1 victory.
It was the second consecutive year the Cleeks have pulled off an upset at Doral. Last year as the 10th seed, they beat seventh-seeded Torque. With a podium finish in Jeddah last week and now a quarterfinal win on Friday, the Cleeks will have plenty of momentum entering Saturday.
McDowell said: “We’re a little bit dangerous looking going into tomorrow. We’ve kind of shifted into the next gear. We’ll try to stay in that gear.”
Fifth-seeded Stinger GC won all three of its matches against Iron Heads GC, while sixth-seed Fireballs GC beat Majesticks GC, 2-1.
Captains of the top four seeds then selected their semi-final opponents after Friday’s round. The shotgun start for Saturday is set with these matchups: No. 1 4Aces GC versus No. 9 HyFlyers GC; No. 2 Crushers GC versus No. 10 Cleeks GC; No. 3 Torque GC versus No. 5 Stinger GC; No. 4 RangeGoats GC versus No. 6 Fireballs GC.
The defending team champion 4Aces GC will pose a tough challenge for the HyFlyers, but Mickelson – who will face Dustin Johnson in singles – was looking forward to the opportunity.
“The Aces are the strongest team on LIV. They won it last year. They’ve led throughout the year this year. But I’m really proud of my team for today and the effort that our guys made down the stretch to win and to finish the matches off,” Mickelson added.
Johnson said selecting the lowest-seeded team available was the obvious choice. “I was sitting over here with the team, and they wanted to play the HyFlyers, so I said OK.”
The Crushers lost in the semi-finals last year with the same lineup, but captain, Bryson DeChambeau, said his team was stronger this year.
“I feel like we’re a force to be reckoned with, and we’ve just got to keep playing our game in the way we know we can and see what happens,” DeChambeau added.
Torque GC, the youngest team in the LIV Golf League, won more tournament titles (four) than any other team this season, but they will face a tough South African squad that posted the only shutout on Friday.
On his match against Torque captain, Joaquin Niemann, Stinger captain, Louis Oosthuizen, said: “They’ve got youth, so he’ll learn. So, we’ll see. It’s going to be fun tomorrow.”
RangeGoats captain, Bubba Watson, will face Fireballs Captain Sergio Garcia, but the intriguing matchup will be 2023 individual champion Talor Gooch against young Eugenio Chacarra, who had the best performance Friday with a 6 and 5 win over the Majesticks’ Sam Horsfield.
Garcia, who lost a tight match against Majesticks co-captain, Henrik Stenson, said: “We’re going to go out there, we’re going to give it our best. My boys played amazing today, so I hope that they do more of the same tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll play a little bit better, and we’ll see if we can get that W.”