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Ahead of U.S. Open, Players Take Swings at Saudi-Backed LIV Golf

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — For six months, Rory McIlroy, now in his thirteenth 12 months on the PGA Tour and a four-time major champion, has been probably the most outspoken critic of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit rattling the skilled ranks.

On Tuesday, days after LIV Golf held its inaugural tournament outside London, McIlroy’s denigration of the rival league grew louder, and he found an ally in Jon Rahm, the defending champion at this week’s U.S. Open on the Country Club outside Boston. Referring to his victory on the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open last week and comparing it with LIV Golf’s event, McIlroy said: “Last week in Canada, LIV won’t ever have that. Last week meant something. What they were doing over there meant nothing.”

McIlroy has long stressed that the LIV Golf series, whose major shareholder is the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and which pays golfers hefty appearance fees with guarantees that everybody in the sector will likely be awarded a considerable payout, is more of an exhibition than a contest. On the midpoint of nearly every PGA Tour event, for instance, half the golfers in the sector — those with the very best scores — are eliminated from the tournament and sent away with none monetary award.

That led Rahm on Tuesday to explain LIV Golf’s first event as “not a golf tournament,” since it lacks cuts.

He added: “I would like to play against the most effective on the planet in a format that’s been happening for 100 years. That’s what I would like to see. Yeah, money is great, but I’ve never really played the sport of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the sport, and I would like to play against the most effective on the planet.”

McIlroy was unsparing on the identical topic, especially when discussing the few younger players, comparable to Bryson DeChambeau, 28, who’ve chosen LIV Golf over the PGA Tour. A lot of the big names committed to LIV are considerably older and have been lured by upfront contracts valued at $150 million or more. Phil Mickelson, 51, reportedly received near $200 million to sign on.

“I understand, because a whole lot of these guys are of their late 40s, or in Phil’s case, early 50s,” McIlroy, a 33-year-old from Northern Ireland, said. “Yeah, I feel everyone on this room, and they might say to you themselves, that their best days are behind them.

“That’s why I don’t understand it for the blokes which are an analogous age to me going over there because I would really like to consider that my best days are still ahead of me. And I feel theirs are, too. In order that’s where it seems like you’re taking the simple way out.”

Asked why he has been so impassioned in his allegiance to the PGA Tour, McIlroy answered: “I just think it’s the correct thing to do.”

He then mentioned the a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of dollars that PGA Tour events have raised for myriad charities and added: “That may be a massive legacy and something that I don’t think people talk enough about.”

It’s also true that McIlroy’s assessment of the LIV Golf series has been mistaken previously. In February, he called the enterprise “dead within the water.” When asked about that misjudgment on Tuesday, even McIlroy’s response was meant to be something of a punch within the nose to those that turned away from the PGA Tour.

“I suppose I took a whole lot of players’ statements at face value,” he said. “I suppose that’s what I got unsuitable. You had people committed to the PGA Tour — that’s the statements that were put out. Folks that went back on that. I took them at their word, and I used to be unsuitable.”

Finally, McIlroy was asked if he had lost respect for Mickelson, probably the most renowned player to defect. His response was telling for the way it began.

“As a golfer? No,” McIlroy said.

He continued: “As a golfer, I actually have the utmost respect for Phil. I’ve been dissatisfied with how he has went about what he has done.”

About 90 minutes after McIlroy addressed reporters, Brooks Koepka, who relishes his role as a contrarian, had a unique opinion concerning the PGA Tour-LIV Golf rift.

“I’m attempting to give attention to the U.S. Open, man,” Koepka said with a grimace. “I legitimately don’t get it. I’m uninterested in the conversations. I’m uninterested in all these items.”

Koepka complained that news-media coverage was “throwing this black cloud over the U.S. Open.”

“The more legs you give it,” Koepka said, “the more you retain talking about it.”

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