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At U.S. Open, Betrayal, Greed, a LIV Golf Star and, Above All, Decorum | gadgetfee

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Historic moments are widespread on the U.S. Open, which is to be anticipated for a championship first held in 1895. However 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 lately spurned the established PGA Tour to align with an upstart, Saudi-backed circuit that has recruited new members with a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in inducements, would compete alongside the gamers that they had simply abandoned.

Oh, sure, and the nationwide championship of golf 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 preferred, beloved determine trapped within the cynosure of the firestorm.

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

Take into account the scene as Phil Mickelson, the six-time main champion and the best-known defector to the LIV Golf Invitational sequence, ready to start his spherical. Final 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 Personal Funding Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

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

By the point 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 questioned in current days if the gamers now working for LIV Golf would possibly hear booing on the Nation Membership. That didn’t happen. Not when Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked participant to hitch 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, nonetheless, a minimum of teased comically by one fan. Mickelson has been famend for his playing habits, one thing Mickelson referred to as “reckless and embarrassing” in an interview with Sports activities Illustrated final week.

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

Boston was tabbed as a 3.5-point favourite towards Golden State in Sport 6 of the N.B.A. finals Thursday night time at TD Backyard only a few miles away.

Whereas a roar of laughter erupted from the gang, Mickelson stored his again turned. Then he smashed a drive onto the golf green and walked towards the outlet as followers cheered and referred to as his identify.

Extra thumbs-up gestures. Extra 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 properly.

Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion and a PGA Tour stalwart, approached Mickelson with a large smile and provided a fist bump. They conversed simply for a couple of 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. However 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 sequence. 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 by means of the simple banter of this group, who’ve every received a minimum of one main championship.

As Mickelson’s spherical unfolded, it was apparent his sport, which has been unsteady for a lot of months, had not improved. He bogeyed the primary and third holes and barely recovered, capturing 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 referred to as out his identify. A kind of followers loudly encouraging Mickelson was William Sullivan of Woburn, Mass.

Requested if he was shocked, or upset, when Mickelson selected to play final week within the inaugural LIV Golf occasion close to London, Sullivan shook his head and mentioned: “Probably not.”

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 wouldn’t take $200 million? I imply, to play golf?”

As Mickelson turned towards the fourth gap, a single voice shouted in his course: “Sellout!”

Mickelson didn’t react.

Across the golf course on Thursday, 12 teams had been a mixture of LIV Golf and PGA Tour gamers. One comprised Jon Rahm of Spain, the defending U.S. Open champion, Collin Morikawa, the winner of the 2020 P.G.A. Championship, and James Piot, the 2021 U.S. Newbie champion who performed final week within the first LIV Golf match.

The group moved briskly and civilly across the Nation Membership structure, exhibiting all the same old 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 seemed like another threesome in another first spherical of a significant championship.

It recalled the phrases of Justin Thomas, a frontrunner 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 hitch the breakaway enterprise: “You possibly can disagree with the choice. You possibly can possibly want that they did one thing otherwise. However for folks at residence to essentially say that Dustin Johnson is now a nasty individual, that’s not truthful. That’s simply not proper.”

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

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