What LIV Golf and the Masters share in common

Dustin Johnson, left, and Phil Mickelson shake hands with fans, during, LIV Golf Miami

Former Masters champions Dustin Johnson, left, and Phil Mickelson at LIV Miami earlier this week.

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DORAL, Fla. — There were a bunch of flights from Miami to Augusta on Sunday, some you could actually get on. Southwest had a 3:45 p.m. departure with various golf hands on it, people who didn’t need to witness the shotgun end to the LIV event at Trump Doral on Sunday evening. Delta had an 8:50 p.m. flight. And then there were those flying, as the jet-rich like to say, “private.” Phil on one plane, Dustin on another, Sergio on his own, to cite three former Masters winners. LIV Golf doesn’t do that all-aboard flight thing anymore. It did, early on — party at 30,000 feet! — but that was then. Guys want to do their own thing. Golfers always have been that way, unless you’re on a Ryder Cup team, or the RangeGoats.

We’ll save the CO2 emissions analysis of all this private-jet travel for another time. LIV Golf, the PGA Tour, Augusta National in all its greenery — studies in conservation these are not.

The point for now is that Augusta was in the air all through the LIV event here. Jon Rahm, your reigning Masters champion, tied for fourth at Doral. That paid $833,333. Wheels up when he says so.

There are 13 LIV golfers in the 2024 Masters, including Joaquin Niemann from Chile and Adrian Meronk from Poland. (Keep an eye on them both.) The players have caddies and partners and “support team” members. They all needed to get from Miami to Augusta. Ergo, all those flights. Yep, Augusta, in the Miami air.

In the cooling dusk air at Doral on Saturday, live music from a tournament concert (the rapper Akon) drifting over the vast property, there were two (and only two) golfers on the sprawling Doral practice green, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. The second round ended a little before 6 p.m. and both went first to the driving range (no, not together) and then to the putting green. They were there with their coaches and caddies and their green-jacket dreams. Koepka finished in a tie for second at the Masters last year. DeChambeau was the low am in 2016, and has struggled there since then. Neither was going to do anything special at Doral, except cash a check. A massive week was coming up.

When he was done for the day, DeChambeau was asked if he was thinking about Augusta during his Saturday-night practice session, on the range and on the green.

“The whole time,” DeChambeau said. “Every shot I hit I’m thinking, I’m playing the tee shot on 13. The tee shot on 10. The draw shots you have to hit there. On the course, too. You’re playing a shot and it’s like, ‘This is reminiscent of the second shot on 1.’”

DeChambeau was about to enter the hotel lobby on a Saturday night. Koepka was 50 feet away, making (or not) one five-footer after another. You get a lot of five-foot putts at Augusta, especially on Sunday. It’s hard to get putts to stop near the hole, on those greens, with those fourth-round pin placements. Sunday at Augusta is deliciously intense. At times you can barely breathe. Players, caddies, even fans will tell you that. You can hear your heartbeat.

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LIV Golf is not pretending to be the Masters. The Akon concert was on the 9th hole of the Red Tiger course, abutting the 1st hole on the Blue Monster, and the bass was turned up so high on some songs your heart felt like a buzzing cellphone. If you go to any of the four Tour events in Florida, you’re going to see the greatest collection of golf-club logo shirts you could ever imagine, plus embroidered club belts and all the rest. There might have been two people at the Akon concert wearing shirts with Augusta National logos. It was just a different scene. A LIV event, or at least this one at Trump Doral, is a party loaded with beautiful people, supply your own air quotes. If you were looking for the name of a good plastic surgeon, the ninth fairway of Red Tiger on Saturday night was a good place to be. “How you feelin’, LIV!” Akon sang out at one point. On went the party.

Greg Norman (try writing the history of the Masters Tournament without Greg Norman!) was everywhere through the week at Doral. He’s the CEO of LIV Golf CEO, and the Greg-must-go mandates from some of your favorite Tour stars did not seem to reach the LIV boss, Yasir Al-Rumayyan. Here was Norman on the practice tee, greeting Bubba (two-time Masters winner), waiting for Watson to remove his earbuds before brah-hugging him. There he was at the Wednesday evening pro-am party, where an eight-piece Latin band performed. (Music runs through the LIV Golf experience.) There was Norman as this whole party came to its Sunday night close, as he is at every LIV event. You wouldn’t call LIV Golf tournament golf, not in anything like the conventional sense. It’s in some new category. It reflects modern life, lifestyles of the rich and famous times 10.

Augusta is still Augusta. The Masters is still the Masters. The coat is forever, or until you die. A blocked shot on 18 on a Sunday night, the title hanging in the balance, is forever. There were 13 golfers in the LIV field in Miami who will play this week in the Masters. LIV Golf is a concert. Golf, but louder, as its slogan goes. At the Masters, you can hear a ball land on those Sunday-evening greens. Quiet-quiet-quiet, eruption. Greg knows all about it. Most of his LIV players do, too. Thirteen of them were going from LIV Miami to the Masters. Hey, Augusta: How you feeling?

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael.Bamberger@Golf.com

Michael Bamberger

Michael Bamberger

Golf.com Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before that, he spent nearly 23 years as senior writer for Sports Illustrated. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first for the (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a variety of books about golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on The E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.

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