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Stenson and Reed share LIV Golf lead amid strange Bedminster scenes

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Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

Shortly after a squad of three ex-US Navy SEAL paratroopers with a huge American flag landed to the screaming AC/DC Thunderstruck guitars at deafening volume, Phil Mickelson was interrupted by a critic as he stood over his first shot on the 16th tee.

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“Do it for the royal family of Saudi Arabia!”

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Talk about awkward. The six-time world champion stepped away from his ball, braced himself as the crowd stirred, before teeing into a bunker on the green. And it got even weirder on a sweltering overcast Friday afternoon as the third event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series creaked to life at the Trump National Golf Club in the central New Jersey farm town of Bedminster.

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Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reid were joint leaders of the night with seven under par on 18 holes, two shots ahead of Thailand’s Fachar Hongvatmai and three shots better than Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz. But golf itself, at the $25 million Saudi hosted event, continues to take a back seat to the many controversies outside the stadium.

Ongoing backlash from critics accusing the Saudi government of using their claimed $2 billion investment to clean up the kingdom’s dark history of human rights, the brutal crackdown on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been well documented ever since. the breakaway golf tour was officially announced in March. The same goes for his alleged links to the 9/11 attacks, which sparked a big outcry Friday morning led by survivors and victims’ families at a public library four miles down the road from the 500-acre Trump National. (That the former president of the United States continues to put the presidential seal on his entire club in violation of federal law so far down the laundry list that it hardly deserves a mention.)

But the surprising lack of spectators at Friday’s first round of the 54-hole no-cut tournament – a shock even in light of the LIV Golf’s glimmering lifespan – left more questions than answers about what will come back to Saudi tour supporters. can realistically be expected from your investment.

With all the hype about LIV Golf being a fan-oriented alternative to the PGA Tour, there certainly wasn’t much around to enjoy it when Part 3 began. Organizers declined to release official attendance figures, but Friday’s session played out in front of no more than a couple of thousand fans, despite the house being largely papered over and $75 tickets to the grounds selling for $2 on the secondary market. Volunteers outnumbered players in the more remote 7,591-yard Old Course, while in the sparsely populated Fan Village, a cluster of outsourced food trucks, market stalls and corporate structures on a windswept patch of dead grass near 11th Fairway. — bore a chilling resemblance to Steven Yeun’s abandoned theme park in the third act of No.

It’s a big sport, like a Potemkin village. All the hallmarks of a major event are big names attracted by mind-blowing $25 million purses, nine-figure registration fees and bright perks – didn’t make up for the credibility of the competition with no meaningful history or world ranking points at stake, in a package that manages to come off as overproduction and at the same time sloppiness.

The largest afternoon crowds were reserved for Donald Trump, who drove a caravan of golf carts through the grounds along with Yasser al-Rumayan, a golf-obsessed former banker and chairman of Newcastle United, which runs the Saudi Public Investment Fund. With nine holes to go, the former US President drove up to the clubhouse as the LCD Soundsystem blared from the loudspeakers, surrounded by hundreds of dizzying fans, and then finished playing from the purpose-built terrace along the 16th tee, chatting with Caitlyn Jenner during the break. periodically for photo shoots with VIP ticket holders. The fishbowl-like enclosure offered his fans from the outside a moment-to-moment view of the former chief executive, who was easily recognizable even from a distance in his red “Make America Great Again” cap.

Even as Reed raced to the top of the six-bird leaderboard from holes 4 to 10 to equal the late Stenson, freshly suspended as European Ryder Cup captain as a result of his defection, the biggest news of the day was happening off course.

Charles Barkley, basketball legend turned television personality, speculation is over that he would be leaving his longtime Inside the NBA post for a LIV Golf commentary. Shortly thereafter, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson became the latest celebrity to break ties with the PGA Tour, becoming the 12th major champion to join the renegade circuit. Whether that will make a difference is hard to say, but the empty feeling of romance on Friday portends an uphill climb.

Mickelson, who was reportedly paid a guaranteed $200 million to join the LIV Tour as a player and lead recruiter, said he was not disappointed by the criticism in an area where he was hugely popular after , both issued five over 75, which left him a tie. for 46th place out of 48.

“No, I had a really good day,” he said. “I’m just frustrated because I expect more from myself.”



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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