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‘Overrated and overpaid!’: Saudi rebels heckled at US Open as golf’s civil war rumbles on

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Phil Mickelson came off the tee on the third hole - SHUTTERSTOCK
Phil Mickelson came off the tee on the third hole – SHUTTERSTOCK

“You are overrated and overpaid!” Bryson DeChambeau has heard much worse in his colorful and controversial career, but saudi rebel scheme dominating the golf world’s agenda, every taunt uttered at this US Open is bound to be exaggerated.

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DeChambeau wasn’t the only one 15 Players Signed to the LIV Golf Series be the subject of a squabble or two on the first day of the American Nationals. On his 52nd birthday, Phil Mickelson received a rousing welcome in the first match, but it was no ordinary left-hander homage.

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“Phil, I loved you,” one woman growled, while the other guy was less direct but humorous nonetheless. “Phil, being greedy is good,” he called out.

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Did it affect him? Well, after seven holes, he was five more, with his four 12-foot shots to a par-three of seventh, depending on your point of view. To be fair, this is only Mickelson’s second competitive appearance in four months (his first, of course, was the first $25 million LIV last week in Hertfordshire), but empathy seems to be lacking when it comes to former fan favorite. The same goes for the rest of the rebels.

On Wednesday, Dustin Johnson was struck by the cry of “Traitor!” how he completed his workout when no one with brains or memory was betting that Sergio Garcia would experience at least a boo. Garcia was the target of verbal abuse from US Open galleries long before he took millions from the House of Saud.

That’s one of the reasons they’ve received such huge entry fees, ranging from $1 million for a player like Peter Yulein to $200 million for a six-time Mickelson major winner. Of course, take the money, but also accept the criticism.

LIV rebels generously compensated for newfound unpopularity - GETTY IMAGES
LIV rebels generously compensated for newfound unpopularity – GETTY IMAGES

The hope was that the Boston crowd would be able to keep their anger at seeing that their week in the spotlight had been taken over by an issue that, in Brooks Koepka’s words, had cast “a big black cloud” over the entire golf landscape.

There are rumors about the next signed players. But the rumors don’t end there. The influential American magazine Golf Digest ran a lengthy article alleging that Keith Pelley, chief executive of the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, was in secret talks with the LIV despite the “strategic alliance” he agreed to with the PGA Tour 18 months ago.

However, Paul McGinley, a former Ryder Cup captain serving on the board of the DP World Tour, has questioned the story. “There are rumors that Keith Pelly plays both sides here, but as far as I know – and I’m on the board – we play one side,” McGinley told Sky.

“We are very busy with the PGA tour. Our partnership has worked incredibly well over the past couple of years with some great co-events and co-promotions such as the new Scottish and Irish Open sponsors, both from the PGA Tour contact book.

“We’ve mapped out plans over the past year or so in terms of what we can do to further add value to both the tours and the members of both, so this is the path we’re on.”

Clearly, one way traditional tours could strike back would be to pool their resources to put together a world tour. McGinley almost admitted it.

“Perhaps what has happened over the past month will accelerate a larger partnership than just a strategic alliance,” he said. “At the moment we are waiting for it, and there are negotiations between these tours, so hopefully they will bear fruit.

“Behind the scenes, there is a lot of confusion in the game, a lot of controversy, and we risk getting a very diluted product. Hopefully we will have a solution where all parties are happy with some solution, but it will take a lot of time, a lot of negotiation and a lot of will.”


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