by Julian Spivey
The 2022 U.S. Open, golf’s third major tournament of the year, begins today at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. and it seems as if the biggest story of the weekend might not be the on course play itself but what’s going on in the world of golf at large.
The sport of golf is undergoing a massive schism with some of its biggest names leaving the PGA Tour for the off-shoot league LIV Golf, which offers fewer rounds, tournaments and a lot more money, but is primarily funded by a Saudi Arabian wealth fund controlled by the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the guy who played a major role in the death of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
There’s a multitude of controversies surrounding LIV Golf – some of it to do with players taking what is essentially blood money from a murderous group of bad dudes with terrible rights violations against its own people and some of it to do with the fact that the PGA Tour has been the bloodline of major golf for almost a century.
It truly feels for the first time in my life watching golf that there’s a group of good guys vs. bad guys. The good guys are the ones sticking with tradition and not leaving for greedy blood money. The bad guys are obviously the golfers who’ve opted to join LIV Golf. The hardest part of it for a longtime golf fan like me is some of the now bad guys are guys I’ve spent decades rooting and cheering for – like six-time major winner Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is probably one of the most irritating defectors from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf because he’s one of the only ones doing so who’s openly spoken of the horrible things the Saudis have done, but he’s still OK taking their money.
The LIV Golf vs. PGA Tour aspect of this year’s U.S. Open is one that definitely is playing out in the media, but I’m anticipating how the crowds at The Country Club are going to react – if the ushers and folks presiding over the tournament will even let them react to those players who have chosen LIV Golf. I suspect the crowds will be cordial because the tournament will probably require them to be so, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if the average fan doesn’t care as much whether these players choose to earn their living, as long as they’re continued to be allowed in the major tournaments.
A potentially more interesting aspect this weekend might be how golfers react to each other. Rory McIlroy, steadfast in his loyalty to the PGA Tour, has been taking shots at LIV Golf all week long. In a moment earlier this week during a practice round Jordan Spieth, also sticking with the PGA Tour, reportedly completely blew off fellow competitor Kevin Na, who was one of the first defectors to LIV Golf to resign his PGA Tour status.
There are 15 LIV Golf golfers competing in the U.S. Open this weekend – 13 of whom competed in the LIV Golf Invitational last weekend and Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, who have pledged to make their LIV Golf debuts in a couple of weeks when the series has its first United States event. Among the LIVers in the major tourney this weekend are two former U.S. Open champs DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. As well as major winners like Reed, Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen.
I frankly hope all 15 of these golfers miss the cut (something they don’t have to worry about in their new series), though it might be better for TV ratings and dramatic storylines if one of them is neck-and-neck with say McIlroy, Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, etc. come Sunday.
I know who I’ll be rooting for this weekend … any and every one of the good guys.