Written by
Bryan Mullen
Oct 21 2023
DJ Semifinal

MIAMI – Saturday’s marquis match gave the fans everything they wanted. The only question is if they can handle more on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson squared off in a dream match at the Team Championship in Miami with plenty of partygoers, celebrities and diehard followers in attendance, and it didn’t disappoint. In the end, Johnson, the captain for 4Aces Golf Club, defeated Mickelson, the captain for HyFlyers Golf Club, by a narrow 2&1 score which had huge ramifications for Sunday.

“I've played a lot of golf with Phil and I knew it was going to be a good match,” Johnson said. “It always is.”

Johnson and Mickelson played together in match play during the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales but lost both of their matches 3&2.

This time, the match play format was the same, but they were competing against each other. Making it even more special was Johnson knowing he had to win for his team to have a chance at the season-long team title, which will be awarded Sunday. With the teams’ score tied 1-1, it came down to who would win the Johnson-Mickelson match.

“There's plenty of screens out there and you can see how your guys are doing,” said Johnson, whose 4Aces GC won the inaugural season-long team championship last year. “I knew it was going to come down to me and Phil.”

The setup was just as dramatic as the finish. Mickelson won the 14th hole to climb back to 1-down, then Johnson hit a shank on the par-3 15th, leading to Mickelson winning again and squaring the match with three to play.

“It was solid,” Johnson said with a smile as he talked about the shank. “Right square on the hosel.”

Johnson quickly put it out of his mind and made birdie on the 16th to regain a 1-up lead. He ended it on the next hole by drilling a 5-footer for birdie.

Just as clutch was the play of 4Aces GC’s Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein, who faced HyFlyers GC’s James Piot and Brendan Steele in an important team match play competition. Perez and Uihlein got off to a quick start and were 4-up through eight holes. They would close out the match 3&2 to earn 4Aces GC first point.

“(Uihlein) played phenomenal and I hit a couple shots I needed to,” Perez said. “As a whole, we ham-and-egged it as a team. It was great.”

4Aces GC’s Patrick Reed, who has been a force for most of 2023, had a rare off day Saturday and lost 4&3 to Cameron Tringale. But no one on 4Aces GC is worried about any carryover effect to Sunday.

“I know Reed didn’t play as well as he wanted to but he’s a grinder and he’ll get it in there,” Perez said. “And I hope I can help the team. It’s going to take all four of us.”

Helping Johnson on Saturday was a new putting method. The two-time major champion putted crosshanded and it was obvious he was confident on the greens as he drained multiple clutch putts.

“I’ve practiced crosshanded a little bit,” Johnson said. “It gets my setup better. My tendency is to get my right arm too high. When I was practicing, I was rolling it really nicely. I’ve always liked it and felt comfortable with it. I’ve putted like that a little bit here and there, maybe nine holes in a tournament, but not very often.”

Now the team will reset and try to win the season-long team championship for the second consecutive year. Sunday’s format for the finals will be stroke play. All 48 players will compete in a shotgun start, and all four scores will count toward the team’s score. Saturday’s four semifinal winners (4Aces GC, RangeGoats GC, Torque GC and Crushers GC) will be in Tier 1 and the team champion will come from that group.

Perez knows a thing or two about finishing out a team championship. Last season at Trump National Doral, Perez played brilliantly on the final day, shooting a 2-under 70 with a clutch late birdie and par save to help 4Aces GC win the team title by one shot.

“You want to be the team champion, overall, for the week and the year,” Perez said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to. We’re all leaning on each other. We all put in the work to do it, and hopefully it pays off.”