LAS VEGAS — The scene on Wednesday at Las Vegas Country Club, which sits at the far end of the Las Vegas Strip and in the shadows of where the real action takes place, represented the perfect metaphor for LIV Golf.
The controversial, upstart Saudi-backed golf tour has spent the better part of its two-plus-year existence begging for attention — even as it’s signed big-name player after big-name player away from the PGA Tour and forced the Tour into making seismic changes to its foundation.
But the reality, as it stands at the moment, is that the PGA Tour — despite all of its flaws that have been exposed in the past couple of years — remains king of the sport.
That makes this LIV Golf tournament being played in Las Vegas during Super Bowl week so compelling.
The eyes of the sports world will be upon Sin City. And, the Super Bowl crowd in town represents the very demographic LIV is trying to attract with its brash approach that bucks the traditions of pro tournament golf with music playing on every hole and players wearing shorts.
“It’s the perfect vibe for LIV Golf,’’ Phil Mickelson told The Post Wednesday as he played his pro-am alongside North Carolina quarterback and first-round-draft prospect Drake Maye and Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis.
Nobody likes to marry golf and football like Mickelson, who’s a sports junkie.
“You’ve got so many cool people that are here in town that are getting exposed to LIV Golf and loving the vibe and how hip it is,’’ he said. “We want to bring golf to the younger generation and make it cooler and hip. I’m not saying it should be this way every single week. We always want the great traditions that the game provides, but we also need to adapt to today’s environment if we want to keep the game interesting and growing.’’
LIV Golf being in the belly of the beast with the Super Bowl four days away figures to be a perfect fit. You have to think NFL fans who are also golfers will come watch the likes of Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Cam Smith and Mickelson while they’re in town for Super Bowl week.
The golfers are stoked about the Super Bowl, each having his own opinion on who to root for and who they believe will win.
“I think the Niners are going to win and Brock Purdy is going to be one of the greatest stories in the NFL, much like Tom Brady was,’’ Mickelson said. “Obviously, [Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks that we’ll ever see and so fun to watch play, but I think Brock Purdy is one of the best stories and one of the most underrated talents we’ve ever seen.
“Brock Purdy saved the San Francisco 49ers. He comes and he’s playing for less than $1 million and he’s playing at a level of a $50 million quarterback. It’s incredible.’’
Maye, who figures to be one of the top two or three picks in April’s NFL draft, called his experience “awesome playing with Phil, a dream come true.’’
Maye is using this week to learn as much about the NFL as he can. The golf was a bonus. After the pro-am Wednesday, he was headed to an event where he was meeting with Eli Manning, who he said is mentoring him through the pre-draft process.
“I’ve been working with Eli throughout the process, getting on Zooms and talking football with him,’’ Maye said. “I’m working out in Mobile, Alabama, and his backup quarterback in college was Dave Morris, and he’s training me for the draft. Pretty small world. And I was at the Manning Camp this summer, so I got to see Eli and Peyton.’’
Levis, like Maye, was awed by playing with Mickelson, saying, “At the very least, I got to get some tips from one of the greatest golfers of all time. Even though I didn’t hit it as well as I’d like to, I still came out a better golfer because of that.’’
Caleb Surratt is a 19-year-old who left University of Tennessee early to sign with LIV and who just played his first tournament as a pro last week and finished tied for 13th, good for a $330,000 check. He’s on a team (Legion XIII) alongside Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.
Playing in Vegas with the Super Bowl in town is not lost on him.
“It’s cool just knowing there’s going to be a lot of people here,’’ Surratt said.
Surratt said he’s “pulling for Brock Purdy’’ Sunday.
“I’m a big Brock Purdy fan,’’ he said. “He’s just a role model to me. We share similar beliefs. I love the way he conducts himself. It’s never about him, so I like that. It’s a good thing for me to see — especially from a guy like him who’s had so much success.’’
Success is what everyone here — from 49ers and Chiefs to LIV Golf to the dreamers working the gaming tables and one-armed bandits at the casinos — is hoping for this week.