Rival Golf Matches to Play Side-by-Side at The Open

The Open will mark its 150th anniversary this week in hopes of a ceasefire in the growing feud between the PGA and DP Tours and the rebel LIV Invitational Series.

The Open will celebrate its 150th anniversary this week in hopes of a ceasefire in the growing feud between the PGA and DP Tours and the rebel LIV Invitational series that threatens to leave ‘The Home of Golf’ a house divided .

Saint Andrew
Photo: photo port

With headliners like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson departing the Old Course at St Andrews with a supporting cast that includes most of golf‘s top players this year, this year’s Open has been set up to to be the greatest celebration of sport in a century and a half of growth and progress.

But golf’s past and future will collide on this scenic stretch of the Scottish coast with the PGA and DP Tour stalwarts and the LIV Series rebels expressing very different views on the direction of the sport.

The build-up to Thursday’s first round will almost certainly be dominated by questions about events unfolding off their course and not who might hoist the Claret Jug.

Big winners Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau have already heard the questions about ‘sportswashing’ and blood money after signing with a $400 million bank-backed venture from the Fund. Saudi public investment.

LIV CEO and former golfing great Greg Norman has touted the series as an exciting new era for golf, while critics say it’s blatant ‘sportswashing’ by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of human rights concerns.

The PGA and DP Tours have issued blanket bans on any golfer jumping on the big-money breakaway circuit.

The LIV series hit back with the threat of legal action saying they are ready to support the rebels with lawyers, and with boatloads of Saudi money, probably the best money possible.

These messy feuds are the nasty backdrop against which The Open will play out. It’s the kind of potential ugliness that can ruin a good party.

POSSIBLE TRUCE

Rory McIlroy, the bookmakers’ favorite to take a second Claret Jug, has suggested a truce is in order.

An avid supporter of the PGA Tour, the Northern Irishman took great pleasure in sticking it to Norman last month after a successful defense of his crown at the Canadian Open, noting that his 21st career title was one more than the CEO of LIV.

The four-time big winner remains opposed to the LIV series but has adopted a more conciliatory tone as the Open approaches.

“I wish it weren’t so complicated,” McIlroy told BBC Sport. “Looking back, there were probably some missed steps that wouldn’t have made it so complicated.

“It divides the game instead of everyone coming together.”

With two wins this season and top-10 finishes in all three majors, including a second-place finish at the Masters, McIlroy is considered the man to beat at St. Andrews.

Masters champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler, PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas, defending champion Collin Morikawa and 2021 US Open champion Jon Rahm, all PGA Tour members, line up behind number two global.

If any golfer can steer the conversation away from bickering, it’s Woods and even that may be beyond his mastery of the spotlight.

A three-time Open winner, including two (2000, 2005) at the Old Course, Woods will take the next step in his comeback after a car accident in February 2021 nearly caused him to lose his right leg in Scotland.

Woods’ return to competitive golf at the Masters in April captivated the sporting world and upon arrival it was immediately confirmed that he would be at St. Andrews.

But it hasn’t all been easy for the 46-year-old.

Woods contested for the PGA Championship in May, then retired in pain after posting an above-par 79 in the third round, prompting him to skip the US Open.

“It’s a pretty historic Open that we’re going to be playing,” Woods told reporters at the JP McManus Pro-Am. “I don’t know when they’re going to come back while I’m still able to play at a high level, and I want to be able to give him at least one more run at a high level.”

Ryan Fox and Ben Campbell are the two New Zealanders on the pitch.

-Reuters