At US Open, Betrayal, Greed, a LIV Golf Star and, Above All, Decorum

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Historic moments are frequent on the US Open, which is to be anticipated for a championship first held in 1895. But Thursday, within the opening spherical of the 122nd enjoying of the occasion, there was a notable first that might have been unthinkable even a month in the past.

Fifteen golfers who just lately spurned the established PGA Tour to align with an upstart, Saudi-backed circuit that has recruited new members with a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars} in inducements, would compete alongside the gamers they’d simply abandoned.

Oh, sure, and the nationwide golf championship was at stake.

The setting had all the weather of a stirring, emotional conflict: an underlying sense of betrayal, accusations of soulless greed, the prospect of transformative change and a fashionable, beloved determine trapped within the cynosure of the firestorm.

But it seems elite golf has an excessive amount of decorum for all that.

Consider the scene as Phil Mickelson, the six-time main champion and the best-known defector to the LIV Golf Invitational collection, ready to start his spherical. Last weekend, Mickelson, who turned 52 on Thursday, was reportedly paid $ 200 million to be the star attraction of the insurgent LIV Golf tour, whose main shareholder is the Private Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

As Mickelson walked previous a hall of followers in the direction of the course, he was enveloped in applause. The reception was not as zealously enthusiastic because it was a 12 months in the past, when he received the PGA Championship to turn into the oldest main champion ever, nevertheless it was passionate and animated.

By the time Mickelson stepped onto the primary tee, there have been whoops and whistles that had Mickelson tipping his cap. When the applause would diminish barely, Mickelson turned to his trademark gesture – a smile and a hearty thumbs up – that might reignite the ovation.

Dozens of followers yelled encouragement:

“Go Phil!”

“Let’s go, Lefty.”

“We love you, Phil!”

The appreciable majority of gamers who’ve remained loyal to the PGA Tour had privately puzzled in current days if the gamers now working for LIV Golf may hear booing on the Country Club. That didn’t happen. Not when Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked participant to affix the brand new league final week, teed off within the group earlier than Mickelson. Johnson’s greeting was muted however nonetheless affectionate.

As for Mickelson on the opening tee, he didn’t hear something near jeering. He was, nevertheless, not less than teased comically by one fan. Mickelson has been famend for his playing habits, one thing Mickelson known as “reckless and embarrassing” in an interview with Sports Illustrated final week.

Just earlier than Mickelson struck his first shot Thursday, a fan on a hillside behind him bellowed: “Phil, Celtics three-and-a-half tonight, who do you want?”

Boston was tabbed as a 3.5-point favourite towards Golden State in Game 6 of the NBA finals Thursday night time at TD Garden simply a few miles away.

While a roar of laughter erupted from the gang, Mickelson stored his again turned. Then he smashed a drive onto the green and walked in the direction of the outlet as followers cheered and known as his identify.

More thumbs-up gestures. More cheers.

Earlier, on the observe vary, any sense that there can be a bristling division between the LIV Golf-aligned gamers and people nonetheless dedicated to the PGA Tour evaporated as effectively.

Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion and a PGA Tour stalwart, approached Mickelson with a huge smile and supplied a fist bump. They conversed simply for a few seconds. Hitting balls to the left of Mickelson was Shane Lowry, who can be enjoying in the identical group on Thursday. Lowry has been emphatic – insistent actually – that he is not going to be a part of the rival tour. But Thursday he was additionally chatting pleasantly with Mickelson and the third member of their group, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who has additionally joined the LIV Golf collection. If the underpinnings {of professional} golf are certainly on the verge of being upended, as some have feared in current days, it was not evident via the simple banter of this group, who’ve every received not less than one main championship.

As Mickelson’s spherical unfolded, it was apparent his recreation, which has been unsteady for a lot of months, had not improved. He bogeyed the primary and third holes and barely recovered, taking pictures an eight-over-par 78, which left him 12 strokes behind the first-round chief, Adam Hadwin of Canada. Mickelson’s followers groaned after his misses, clapped as he left the inexperienced and known as out his identify. One of these followers loudly encouraging Mickelson was William Sullivan of Woburn, Mass.

Asked if he was stunned, or upset, when Mickelson selected to play final week on the inaugural LIV Golf occasion close to London, Sullivan shook his head and mentioned: “Not actually.”

Reminded that the PGA Tour, the circuit the place Mickelson has earned greater than $ 94 million, warned that any participant becoming a member of LIV Golf can be suspended and maybe completely banned, Sullivan grinned.

“Yeah, however what did they provide Phil – $ 200 million, proper?” Sullivan requested. “Who would not take $ 200 million? I imply, to play golf? ”

As Mickelson turned in the direction of the fourth gap, a single voice shouted in his route: “Sellout!”

Mickelson didn’t react.

Around the golf course on Thursday, 12 teams have been a mixture of LIV Golf and PGA Tour gamers. One comprised Jon Rahm of Spain, the defending US Open champion, Collin Morikawa, the winner of the 2020 PGA Championship, and James Piot, the 2021 US Amateur champion who performed final week within the first LIV Golf event.

The group moved briskly and civilly across the Country Club structure, exhibiting all the standard courtesies that golfers do – remaining quiet when an opponent is over the ball, staying out of sight when others are placing, transferring a ball mark whether it is in somebody’s line . It appeared like every other threesome in every other first spherical of a main championship.

It recalled the phrases of Justin Thomas, a chief among the many younger gamers who’ve pledged their help for the PGA Tour, who mentioned earlier within the week about those that have chosen to affix the breakaway enterprise: “You can disagree with the choice. You might need that they did one thing totally different. But for folks at house to essentially say that Dustin Johnson is now a dangerous individual, that is not truthful. That’s simply not proper. ”

Rahm on Tuesday mentioned one thing related. His countryman Sergio Garcia is now a LIV golfer. Asked about Garcia’s defection, Rahm replied: “Not my enterprise.”

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