At the US Open, betrayal, greed, LIV golf star and, above all, scenery

Brooklyn, Mass – Historic moments are frequent at the U.S. Open, expected for the first time in 1895. But on Thursday, in the opening round of the 122nd match, it was an important first. Even a month ago it was incredible.

Fifteen golfers who had just turned down the PGA Tour to coincide with a new, Saudi-backed circle that recruited new members with hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives would compete with players who had just left.

Oh yes, and the National Golf Championship was at stake.

The setting was full of exciting, emotional elements: a sense of betrayal, accusations of stupid greed, the prospect of transformational change, and a popular, lovable figure immersed in the cynicism of a firestorm.

But it turns out that elite golf has a lot of scenery for all of this.

Consider the scene when Phil Mickelson, the six-time top champion and the most famous defector of the LIV Golf Invitational series, was getting ready to start his round. Last weekend, Mickelson, who turned 52 on Thursday, was paid $ 200 million to star in the rebel LIV Golf Tour, whose main shareholder is a private equity fund, the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund.

When Mickelson crossed the fan corridor towards the course, he was greeted with applause. The reception was not as enthusiastic as it was a year ago when he won the PGA Championship to become the oldest home champion, but it was passionate and animated.

By the time Mickelson stood for the first cup, he could hear the moans and whistles on which Mickelson covered his hat. When the applause subsided slightly, Mickelson returned to his signature gesture – a smile and a hearty cera finger above – which elicited a standing ovation.

Dozens of fans cheered encouragingly:

“Go Phil!”

“Go, Left.”

“We love you, Phil!”

The vast majority of players who have remained loyal to the PGA Tour in recent days have been personally interested in whether players currently working at LIV Golf can hear Boeing at a country club. It did not happen. Not when Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player who joined the New League last week, fell into the group before Mickelson. Johnson’s greeting was silent but still loving.

As for Michelson opening in May, he has heard nothing close to ridicule. However, one of the fans made fun of him at least comically. Mickelson was known for his gambling habits, which Mickelson called “reckless and awkward” in an interview with Sports Illustrated last week.

On Thursday, before Mickelson hit his first shot, a crowd shouted at him on the mountain slope behind him: “Phil, Celtics three-and-a-half tonight, who do you like?”

Boston was the 3.5-point favorite in the 6th game of the NBA Finals against Golden State on Thursday night at TD Garden, just a few miles away.

Before the laughter erupted in the crowd, Mickelson turned his back. He then smashed the drive into the firewall and headed for the hole when the crowd cheered and shouted his name.

More cera cera at the top. More joy.

Previously, in the training range, any idea that there would be a strong divide between LIV Golf-related players and those still devoted to the PGA tour also evaporated.

Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion and PGA Tour supporter, approached Mickelson with a wide smile and offered a fist. They spoke easily for a few seconds. Balls to Mickelson’s left side were hit by Shane Lowry, who would play in the same group on Thursday. Lowry stressed – with real insistence – that he would not join a rival tour. But on Thursday, he also had a pleasant conversation with Mickelson and a third member of their group, South African Louis Ostwizen, who also joined the LIV Golf series. If the basics of professional golf are really on the verge of extinction, as some have feared in recent days, it was not apparent from the simple joke of this group that each has won at least one major championship.

As Mickelson’s round developed, it was obvious his game, which had been volatile for many months, had not improved. He hit the first and third holes and barely recovered, throwing eight over 78s, leaving 12 shots behind the first-round leader, Adam Hadwin of Canada. Mickelson fans sighed after he missed her, applauding as he left the green and shouting his name. One of the fans who loudly encouraged Mickelson was William Sullivan Woburn, Mass.

Asked if he was surprised or disappointed when Mickelson chose to play at the LIV Golf event near London last week, Sullivan nodded and said, “Definitely not.”

Recall that the PGA Tour, the circle where Michelson made more than $ 94 million, warned that any player joining LIV Golf would be suspended and possibly banned forever, Sullivan smiled.

“Yes, but what was offered to Phil – $ 200 million, right?” Asked Sullivan. “Who will not take 200 million dollars? I mean, golf? ”

As Mickelson leaned toward the fourth hole, a voice in his direction shouted, “Sell!”

Mickelson did not react.

There were 12 groups of LIV Golf and PGA Tour players on the golf course on Thursday. One included Spaniard John Ramy, the current U.S. Open champion, Colin Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Championship winner, and James Piot, the 2021 U.S. Amateur Champion, who played in the first LIV Golf Tournament last week.

The group moved quickly and civilly around the Country Club location, revealing all the usual courtesy that golfers do – being silent when the opponent is with the ball, staying out of sight when others are pushing, moving the ball’s mark if it is in someone’s line. . He looked like he did in any other first round of the Big Three in a big championship.

He recalled the words of Justin Thomas, a leader among young players who vowed to support the PGA Tour, who said earlier this week about those who chose to join the separatist venture: “You can not agree with the decision. You may want them to do something different. But for people at home to say that Dustin Johnson is a bad person right now is not fair. This is simply not right. ”

Things said a similar thing on Tuesday. His compatriot Sergio Garcia is now a LIV golfer. Asked about Garcia’s survival, Ram replied: “It’s not my business.”

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