Travelers Championship: 5 things we learned during Thursday’s first round at TPC River Highlands

Rory McIlroy, J.T. Poston each shot a 62, while Xander Schauffele was a perfect 18-for-18 in one key stat.

CROMWELL, Conn. — Four days after Matthew Fitzpatrick won the 122nd U.S. Open and less than 24 hours after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that significant changes to the PGA Tour calendar and FedEx Cup playoff system are on the way, the Travelers Championship began at TPC River Highlands.

Several golfers commented Thursday that after the grind of a U.S. Open, coming to this course, which usually yields low scores, is a welcome relief. Among the players who went low on the first day of the tournament were Rory McIlroy and J.T. Poston, both of whom shot 8-under 62s, as well as Xander Schauffele and Martin Laird (63). Three more players—Charles Howell III, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay—shot 64. Anirban Lahiri had the most boring scorecard of the day. He shot a 70 after parring all 18 holes. He also did that in the final round of the 2015 Masters.

Here are five takeaways from the first day of action at the 2022 Travelers Championship.

Check the yardage book: TPC River Highlands for the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship

StrackaLine provides hole-by-hole maps of the site of this week’s PGA Tour event.

TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut – site of this week’s Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour – has been reworked many times since its founding in 1928, most recently by architect Bobby Weed.

Founded as Middletown Golf Club in 1928, it became Edgewood Country Club in 1934. The PGA Tour took over the property in the 1980s, and Pete Dye redesigned a layout that reopened in 1982 as TPC of Connecticut.

Bobby Weed then redesigned it as TPC River Highlands in 1989, and he worked on the course again in 2016 to remodel the bunkers and update the strategic demands.

Short by modern Tour standards, TPC River Highlands will play to 6,841 yards with a par of 70 this week.

Thanks to yardage books provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the players face this week. Check out the maps of each hole below.

Greg Norman says Saudi-backed LIV Golf is applying for world ranking points, calls PGA Tour hypocritical

The second LIV Series event is scheduled to run from June 30 through July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon.

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Greg Norman, the commissioner of the LIV Golf Series, has remained fairly quiet during U.S. Open week, but the two-time major winner was interviewed Saturday night on Fox News’ One Nation with Brian Kilmeade. Norman echoed many things he’s said in the past but also announced that the LIV Series is working to make it easier for its players to qualify for major championships going forward.

The USGA announced that it would allow golfers who had qualified to play at The Country Club, and who competed in the first LIV Series event in London, to play in this year’s U.S. Open, but the USGA’s CEO, Mike Whan, said on Wednesday that he could envision scenarios that would make it much harder for LIV Series players to compete in the future. The biggest challenge is LIV Series events do not award Official World Ranking points, but Norman is working on changing that.

“We’re actually applying for OWGR points right now. We’re actually putting in our application probably over the weekend, if not Monday,” he said. “And it’s a very compelling application. We’ve worked very, very closely with the technical committee understanding all the components of what you need to apply for it. And quite honestly, it’s going to be interesting because on the board that votes on the OWGR points for anybody new coming in, here’s Jay Monahan. Now, it’ll be interesting to see if Jay Monahan recuses himself from that vote because of what he said on television with Jim Nantz the other day. So it’s very interesting and it’s sad to be, you know, putting that additional exerting pressure on it because our tour is a good tour. It’s supported, it’s got an incredible field. Our point should be that if we get the OWGR out points, then everything else takes care of itself.”

In the interview, Norman commented on Bob Costas’ recent statement that Norman and the LIV Series players were taking ‘blood money.’

“Look, I’m disappointed people go down that path, quite honestly,” he said. “If they want to look at it in prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors doing 40 plus billion dollars worth of business with Saudi Arabia? Why is it okay for the sponsors? Will Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them?  The hypocrisy in all this, it’s so loud. It’s deafening.”

Norman also pointed out that Saudi Arabia sponsors the Aramco Series, a lucrative four-event set of women’s tournaments. Kilmeade noted that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (which is investing in the LIV Series) has also invested in Uber, Facebook, Nintendo and Boeing.

“We’re not going anywhere, we want to do what’s right for the fans, for the players and for our commercial business model,” Norman said. “We are going to forge forward. And there’s been a lot of obstacles, Brian, no question about it. There’s been a lot of obstacles the PGA Tour’s thrown in our path, but you know what? We’ve worked around it because golf is a force for good.”

Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, and Patrick Reed, the winner of the 2018 Masters Tournament, recently announced they are planning to play LIV Series events, and rumors swirled at The Country Club this week about other players who might be choosing to play LIV Series events in the days and weeks ahead.

2022 U.S. Open
Phil Mickelson speaks in a press conference during a practice round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

This week, Phil Mickelson was pressed by reporters about his involvement with the Saudi-backed tour and was asked what he had to say to Terry Strada, the national chairperson of 9/11 Families United, who sent the six-time major winner a letter expressing disappointment in his involvement with the LIV Series,

“I would say to the Strada family, I would say to everyone that has lost loved ones, lost friends on 9/11 that I have deep, deep empathy for them,” Mickelson said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them.”

Norman says he has no regrets about teaming with Saudi Arabia

“Not at all, because golf is a force for good,” Norman said. “The European PGA Tour, since 2009, had a golf tournament, the Saudi International that’s still in existence since 2019 and during that Saudi International, there were PGA Tour players who were given rights and waivers to go play there. So to me, if golf is good for the world, golf is good for Saudi, and you’re seeing that growth internally, it’s extremely impressive.”

The second LIV Series event is scheduled to run from June 30 through July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Oregon.

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Check the yardage book: The Country Club Composite Course for the 2022 U.S. Open

See StrackaLine’s maps of the classic layout near Boston with holes from two courses that create a stern test of tiny greens, deep rough.

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The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts – site of this week’s 122nd U.S. Open – opened in 1893 as a three-hole layout. Willie Campbell, a Scot and head professional at the club, extended the course to nine holes and then to 18 in 1899.

Several designers have worked on The Country Club over the decades, most recently Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner before the 2013 U.S. Amateur.

The layout used for the U.S. Open – which features small greens and thick rough among its considerable challenges – is actually a composite of two courses, the Main course and the club’s Primrose nine. Three holes of the Primrose (No. 9 Primrose playing as No. 9 of the Composite, a combo of Nos. 1 and 2 Primrose playing as No. 13 on the Composite, and No. 8 Primrose playing as No. 14 of the Composite) will be used for the national championship.

The Composite ranks No. 1 on Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of top private courses in the state, and it is No. 24 among all classic courses built in the U.S. before 1960. It will play to 7,264 yards with a par of 70 for the Open.

Thanks to yardage books provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the players face this week. Check out the maps of each hole below.

Schupak: Brandel Chamblee isn’t pulling punches when it comes to LIV Golf, Phil Mickelson or sportswashing

The Golf Channel broadcaster not afraid to speak his mind on Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau or the Saudi-backed golf series.

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Shortly after Brandel Chamblee noted on Golf Channel’s “Live From the U.S. Open” show that Phil Mickelson had taken “a flamethrower to the very PGA Tour that provided a great stage for you to amass unimaginable wealth,” it became abundantly clear Chamblee had his very own flamethrower in the form of his carefully crafted words. He aimed it at Mickelson and other supporters of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league.

Chamblee has never been shy to share his opinion, but he arguably has been at his most outspoken in addressing the raging war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

Just last week, Chamblee said the debut of LIV Golf near London made him “want to puke.”

“When it comes to the richest sports stars in the world, Phil Mickelson is 11th. He’s ahead of Kobe Bryant, he’s ahead of David Beckham, he’s ahead of Kevin Durant, he’s ahead of Lewis Hamilton,” Chamblee said. “You’re talking about him being ahead of icons in sports that are far more popular worldwide than the game of golf. And yet why is it that golf has four of the highest paid athletes of all time? Why is it that Phil Mickelson is 11th, in terms of the stratosphere he does occupy, as an athlete … that athletes who have made less money than him but play a sport that is widely more popular? Why is that? It’s because of the image of the golfer.

“Because of their independent-contract nature. Because they show up and, generally speaking, play a game that is self-governed and self-policing. It is a game of integrity. It’s because corporations want to align themselves with these players. It’s because of the philanthropic aspect of the game of golf.

“So when I hear these players say that they are ‘growing the game’ … it makes me want to puke. They’re destroying the game. And they are destroying their reputations.”

He concluded: “This is one of the saddest days in the history of golf. Watching these players come together for money and show to the world … they are showing us that they are the greediest, most self-serving, self-interested, willfully blind players in the world of golf today.”

In short, Brandel gonna Brandel and he isn’t pulling any punches. Chamblee picked up where he left off Monday during Golf Channel’s “Live From the U.S. Open.” He directed much of his vitriol at Mickelson, who reportedly jumped to the Saudi-league for a reported $200 million.

Of Mickelson’s performance in his pre-tournament press conference, Chamblee said: “He’s suffering the consequences of a decision he made that some believe he was taking a flamethrower to the PGA Tour. By my count there were 22 questions and not a single question about being the oldest major champion of all time, not a single question about trying to complete the career Grand Slam. It was all about his decision to join a league that I think many view as an attempt at a hostile takeover.”

2022 U.S. Open
Phil Mickelson speaks in a press conference at the U.S. Open at The Country Club. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

Chamblee noted that the Mickelson who broke on the scene with his “pop collar, saccharine smile and playing with so much joy for the game of golf” had changed. Chamblee highlighted an incident dating to the 2014 Ryder Cup that gave golf fans an early peek at the character of a man who would be willing to get into bed with people who that man described as “scary mother——.”

“He’s been pretty darn successful in the media center at manipulating to whatever extent he can, but there have been moments over the years where he’s been atrocious in the media center. Most notably in 2014 at the Ryder Cup, where we got I think a real glimpse into who Phil Mickelson is. Machiavellian? Sure,” Chamblee said. “Blaming Tom Watson for his failures in the Ryder Cup, and then when asked after literally denigrating one of the greats in the game in front of the whole world by a media member, why would you do such a thing? He almost acted incredulous and said, ‘How could you take what I just did as denigrating Tom Watson?’ Everyone in that room knew what they were seeing. It was disingenuous at best, but duplicitous more accurately describes it.”

“Nothing I’ve seen from Phil Mickelson from that moment to this moment has changed,” Chamblee later added. “It turns out when you’re trying to sell a lie, it’s hard to talk with a great deal of comfort and ease.”

Chamblee didn’t spare other defectors to LIV, including Bryson DeChambeau, calling out his inconsistent comments and giving the 2020 U.S. Open champion a tongue-lashing for the ages.

Bryson DeChambeau plays a shot during a practice round before the U.S. Open at The Country Club on June 14, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

“More recently, he’s been talking about how he’s found God and become a Christian and I just wonder how he squares accepting money from a regime that is anti-Christian,” Chamblee said. “You can’t pull a Bible out in Riyadh without going to jail. They are misogynistic, they are anti-Semitic, there’s no freedom of speech. He talks about his charities, about going home to do things, but meanwhile he’s taking money from people who oppress the things he purports to stand for, which is philanthropic enterprises. That’s where the money is coming from. He says he’ll have a new legacy. He absolutely will have a new legacy, and it will be tarnished as a 100-year-old silver trophy that has been untouched up in a closet.”

That is the type of commentary from golf media directed at a player that is sorely missing. Later, when Jim Gallagher Jr. observed that everyone has a price, Chamblee circled back to that comment and said, “I’d like to think not. I’d like to think there are plenty of people with enough money to say no. There are loads of people who have said no. … Rory (McIlroy) has said no. Justin Thomas has said no. I don’t believe $200 million, I don’t think $500 million, I don’t believe a billion dollars would get Rory to say yes. I don’t think he will.

“Have they exposed a weakness? Yeah, OK. A lot of people can be paid enough money to not care about how their wives would be treated in Saudi Arabia, to not care how women are treated in Saudi Arabia, to not care about how gays are treated, to not care about people with no freedom of expression and no real freedom at all. There are people that will take enough money to turn a blind eye to that. But there are plenty of people I believe who say hold on a second, if you want to run this tour let’s see real reform, let’s see real measured reform, let’s hear from the women of Saudi Arabia, let’s see pictures of them actually out in Riyadh without a burkha on, let me see them driving, let’s see them going out on a date, let’s see them out playing golf. Let me see real measured reform. Let me see freedom of expression.

“It’s never going to happen there. Not certainly under the rule of MBS, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. He couldn’t be more oppressive. He couldn’t be more in favor of centralizing power within himself to an extent that has never happened in Saudi Arabia. There’s no evidence of reform in that country. Zero, other than his words, which were about as empty as Phil’s were in his press conference.”

That is as good as it gets from a golf analyst giving a group of pampered, well-compensated golfers some grief for selling out and supporting sportswashing.

Chamblee also gave equal praise to the high drama and sporting battle that was the final round of the RBC Canadian Open between eventual champion Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.

“It’s one of the most significant wins in the history of the game,” Chamblee argued. “It was almost as if they took it upon themselves to say this is what the highest pursuit of this sport looks like, this is what great competition looks like. It was almost like they said to themselves not on our watch, we’re going to put on one heckuva show to remind you of just how competitive the PGA Tour is and has been for all these years.”

“Live from the U.S. Open” is just getting started this week, but Chamblee already has shown he’s prepared to dish on the hard topics that are rocking the golf world and he’s not afraid to call it like he sees it.

U.S. Open: Golf equipment spotted at The Country Club

Check out the gear being used by stars such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and more at the 2022 U.S. Open.

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – The U.S. Open has a reputation as the toughest test in golf, and this week at The Country Club outside Boston, that reputation will be further solidified. The rough is thick, the greens are fast and players rarely will have a flat, even lie in the fairway. It promises to be a brutal test.

A player’s game has to be razor sharp if he hopes to be in contention Sunday, and every piece of equipment has to be dialed in as well. Golfweek’s David Dusek is at The Country Club and has spent his days in the practice area and on the range. Here are some of the interesting equipment photos he has taken this week.

We occasionally recommend interesting products, services, and gaming opportunities. If you make a purchase by clicking one of the links, we may earn an affiliate fee. Golfweek operates independently, though, and this doesn’t influence our coverage

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka considers equipment changes at The Country Club

Brooks Koepka practices with older models of Titleist golf balls and a TaylorMade driver at the U.S. Open.

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BROOKLINE, Mass – Brooks Koepka, a two-time U.S. Open winner, is considering substantial equipment changes before the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club.

After being an equipment free agent for several seasons, Koepka signed an endorsement deal last November with Srixon. He already had used the company’s irons for several months, but the deal ensured he would use a Srixon driver and irons, play Cleveland wedges, use a Srixon ball and carry a Srixon bag.

However, on Tuesday morning Koepka practiced putting and worked in the short-game area using a 2017 version of Titleist’s Pro V1x, the ball he used to win both his U.S. Open titles (2017 and ’18) as well as two PGA Championships (2018 and ’19).

Brooks Koepka's putter and ball.
Brooks Koepka’s putter and ball Tuesday at the 2022 U.S. Open (David Dusek/Golfweek)

While hitting a series of pitch shots, he spoke briefly with Justin Thomas and asked which ball Thomas played. The winner of last month’s PGA Championship replied that he is playing the 2021 version of the Pro V1x, then he asked Koepka if he was having golf ball troubles. Koepka smiled and said he was working with the 2017 Pro V1x again.

Brooks Koepka Tuesday at the 2022 U.S. Open
Brooks Koepka’s golf balls Tuesday at the 2022 U.S. Open (David Dusek/Golfweek)

Thomas said his ball, the 2021 version, would spin more than the 2017 version, smiled and went back to hitting pitch shots.

Thirty minutes later on the driving range, after Koepka warmed up with his Cleveland wedges and Srixon irons, he took a Srixon headcover off his driver, but the club was a TaylorMade M5.

Brooks Koepka Tuesday at the 2022 U.S. Open
Brooks Koepka practices with a TaylorMade M5 driver at the 2022 U.S. Open. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

Koepka used the TaylorMade M5 to win the PGA Championship at Bethpage.

Koepka is scheduled to start his first round at 1:25 p.m. Thursday alongside Cameron Smith and reigning Masters champion Scottie Scheffler. 

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Check the yardage book: St. George’s Golf & Country Club for 2022 RBC Canadian Open

Take a peek at the StrackaLine yardage book for this week’s PGA Tour stop.

St. George’s Golf & Country Club in Etobicoke, Canada – site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open – was designed by legendary Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson and opened in 1930 not far from Toronto.

St. George’s ranks No. 2 on Golfweek’s Best ranking of classic courses built before 1960 in Canada. The club has worked with architect Ian Andrew since 2013 to restore the course. The course will play to 7,014 yards with a par of 70 for the 2022 RBC Canadian Open. 

Thanks to yardage books provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the players face this week. Check out the maps of each hole below. 

PGA of America sells major-championship site Valhalla Golf Club to Louisville investors

Several Valhalla members form investment group to buy Valhalla, past site of majors and a Ryder Cup as well as the 2024 PGA.

Valhalla Golf Club has been sold by the PGA of America to a group of Louisville investors who want to “continue to bring major championships” to Kentucky, according to new co-owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer.

“Valhalla, for a 36-year-old club, has amazing history,” said Kirchdorfer, an executive with ISCO Industries. “It’s already hosted a Ryder Cup and three major championships. We just saw it as important that this is returned to local ownership. That way, we can control. We know people are going to operate in the best interest of the community.”

Kirchdorfer is a Valhalla board member who joined the club in 2004 and has previously worked with the PGA on events that have been held at the course. Three other well-known local executives joined him in the purchase: former Yum! Brands CEO David Novak, Musselman Hotels President Chester Musselman and Junior Bridgeman, a former University of Louisville basketball player who built an entrepreneurial empire following a 12-year run in the NBA.

The PGA, which bought the course from founder Dwight Gahm in 2000, confirmed the sale in a Wednesday press release, and Valhalla members were informed in an email from Keith Reese, the club’s general manager. The sale is effective immediately, according to Kirchdorfer, who did not disclose the cost of the course.

Paul Azinger
USA captain Paul Azinger is sprayed with champagne after defeating the Europeans on Day 3 of the 37th Ryder Cup at the Valhalla Golf Club in 2008. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

“Valhalla Golf Club has proven itself to be a wonderful test of championship golf, one that is as fair as it is challenging for the top golfers in the world,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson wrote in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the new ownership group on a highly anticipated 2024 PGA Championship and working with the new owners to continue to have it as one of our championship sites.”

Valhalla, which stands on nearly 500 acres in eastern Jefferson County, is “an icon in the community,” Kirchdorfer said. It had been the only private club owned and operated by the PGA, and it was ranked by Golfweek’s Best as the No. 1 private course in the state. It ties for No. 74 on Golfweek’s Best 2022 ranking of Modern Courses in the U.S.

The course was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus ahead of its opening in 1986 and has hosted three PGA Championship tournaments, including a famed victory by Tiger Woods in 2000. It was home to the Ryder Cup in 2008, bringing stars of the sport from around the world to Louisville, and is set to host the PGA Championship again in 2024.

The 2024 event, which tournament officials say could pump $100 million into the local economy, will not be affected by the sale.

Kirchdorfer, a longtime golf advocate, said he got to work forming a group to bid on Valhalla after members were informed in November that the PGA had been approached by a potential buyer and would entertain other offers. All four buyers are longtime members of the club.

Tiger Woods 2000 PGA
Tiger Woods celebrates making a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff at the 2000 PGA Championship at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. (Donald Miralle/Allsport)

Valhalla’s status brings value to the community, he said, which the ownership group took into consideration. And while some club members expressed concerns over potential redevelopment when it hit the market last year, Kirchdorfer said the 18-hole course isn’t going anywhere.

Instead, the ownership group will work to highlight “Kentucky hospitality,” he said, and “build upon the great tradition and culture that’s already there.” So, concerned club members and others in the Louisville golf community have got that going for them, which is nice.

“Valhalla’s the crown jewel of Kentucky golf, and we wanted it locally owned like it was with the Gahm family,” Kirchdorfer said. “The Gahm family had an amazing vision and took a big risk when they took a farm and hired Jack Nicklaus to build a golf course with the hopes of bringing major championship golf to this community – and they succeeded, which a lot of people don’t.

“We just wanted to make sure that the next owners had the same mission of doing what’s best for Valhalla and the community of Louisville.”

The new owners have plenty of work to do in the next two years ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship, set for May 16-19 that year. The group plans to invest in the property to ensure it’s a “reflection of our community,” Kirchdorfer said.

An impressive turn at that 2024 tournament can send a message to the PGA – which works to promote the game with more than 28,000 members – that Louisville is a capable host for the sport’s biggest moments, according to Kirchdorfer, who previously served as vice chair of a Louisville PGA Championship.

“When we show how much this community will support the ’24 championship, we’re confident they’ll continue to bring more championships,” he said.

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Golf equipment makers are silent so far on future of sponsorship deals with PGA Tour players who intend to play first LIV Golf event

It remains unclear if equipment makers will continue to support players headed to the new Saudi Arabia-backed tour.

In the hours following the announcement that Dustin Johnson and several other PGA Tour and international players intend to compete in the new LIV Golf Series’ first tournament June 9–11 near London, the equipment companies that supply those players with gear have remained mum about player relationships and sponsorship deals.

That leaves it unclear if equipment makers will continue to support players on the new Saudi Arabia-backed tour. The LIV tour released its initial player list Tuesday evening, and as of Wednesday morning many of those players are still featured on equipment websites such as taylormadegolf.com, callawaygolf.com and pinggolf.com, as examples.

When asked by Golfweek‘s David Dusek via email Tuesday night if former world No. 1 Johnson will continue to wear TaylorMade hats and use branded bags, a TaylorMade representative responded, “We have no comment to make at this time.” That response also included Sergio Garcia’s use of a TaylorMade bag. Other companies such as Ping and Adidas did not respond to initial emails seeking comment.

This initial non-reaction follows Callaway’s sponsorship “pause” with Phil Mickelson several days after his comments about his motivations to join the LIV circuit were published by author Alan Shipnuck in February. Those comments included calling the Saudi backers of the new series “scary motherf——” and explained he was interested in documented Saudi human rights offenses less than in gaining financial leverage on the PGA Tour, which he called obnoxiously greedy.

Mickelson wasn’t included on the initial player list for the opening LIV event, although it’s possible he still might play. Mickelson has not played the PGA Tour since those comments and has visited his parents’ home in California during the week of the recent PGA Championship, where he was defending champion.

None of the players on the field list have made such outlandish publicized comments, possibly making it easier for equipment makers to ride out any potential controversy as the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf Series engage in battle and players jump ship.

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