Fred Couples says he respects LIV Golf players despite calling Phil Mickelson a “nut” and Sergio Garcia a “clown”, he just wants them to stop badmouthing the PGA Tour.

The 63-year-old American, the 1992 Masters winner, said Monday at Augusta National that he has no problem with any of the Masters champions he ridiculed.

“I really don’t think he did anything horrible,” Couples said. “They are making comments and I am responding to them.”

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Last month, the couples placed the nicknames on six-time Grand Slam winner Mickelson and 2017 Masters champion Garcia of Spain in a speech before a Champions Tour event.

Garcia called it “disappointing”, while Mickelson only responded that “we’ve been friends for years”.

The dispute is among verbal clashes in the wake of several top PGA stars leaving the tour for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League’s record-breaking $25 million purse and 54-hole event.

Couples launched his criticism that the LIV players were “thumping the PGA Tour” and took a special hint at compatriot Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner.

“If you’re willing to give Phil Mickelson $200 million at 53 to shoot at 74 and 75, God bless you,” Couples said.

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On the eve of a Masters champions dinner where Couples is expected to break bread with the “wacko” and the “clown” at Augusta National, Couples said he has no problem with LIV players.

“I call myself what I call them,” Couples said. “I just don’t think they should criticize the PGA Tour or anybody, just go play golf.

“Tomorrow night it will be a big dinner, it will be a lot of fun.” Couples has no problem being paired with Mickelson.

“I would love to be paired with Phil. He loves this place as much as I do,” Couples said. “We looked at each other on the first hole and had a good time.” The PGA Tour has banned rebels who jumped into LIV from playing its tournaments, but the major leagues have allowed LIV players to compete on their courses if they qualify.

Couples said he agreed with Augusta National’s decision to allow LIV players into the Masters.

“Those who have won deserve to be here. They should be here,” Couples said. “I have no problem with any of them.

“Just please don’t criticize a tour I’ve invested 43 years in. It bothers me a lot.

“Do not bother me. They really don’t. I respect you all. I have no problem with anyone on the LIV Tour. I really don’t.

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