Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz are tied for the lead at LIV Golf Portland after two rounds of play, heading into the final day at eight under, two strokes clear of the chasing field.

Ortiz was the outright leader after his first-round 67, following it up with a three-under 69. Johnson was outright second after Thursday, posting a 68, and he proceeded to shoot another 68 in his second trip around Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Arguably the biggest star on the LIV Golf roster after Phil Mickelson, Johnson had six birdies and one bogey on the front-nine, with three bogeys and two birdies on the back-nine keeping him from running away with a lead.

In outright third place is Branden Grace at six under, while Justin Harding is alone at five under, with the group of Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Jinchiro Kozuma, Patrick Reed and Sihwan Kim rounding out the top-10 in a tie for fifth.

With Johnson and Reed both near the top of the leaderboard, it puts their team – 4 Aces GC, along with Pat Perez and Talor Gooch – atop the teams leaderboard at 15 under, four strokes clear of the South African team Stinger GC, consisting of Grace, Oosthuizen, Hennie du Plessis and Charl Schwartzel.

After an even par opening round, Bryson DeChambeau put himself back into contention with a three-under Friday, giving him a share of 10th with Sam Horsfield.

4 Aces partners Gooch and Perez are both at two under, tied for 12th, while Martin Kaymer, Matthew Wolff and Kevin Na are the last of the players under par.

Abraham Ancer is at even par, Sergio Garcia is at two over, and Mickelson shot his second consecutive 75 to finish play at six over.

Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen are the 36-hole leaders of the U.S. Open after an entertaining second round at The Country Club on Friday, tied at five under.

Dahmen was one stroke off the lead after the first round, and he followed it up with a strong 68 in windy conditions. He is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in the opening two rounds. Morikawa came into the day at one under, and shot the round of the day as the only player to get around in 66. 

One stroke back from the lead is a five-man group headlined by stars Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, along with American duo Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise. Buckley and Wise were the two players along Dahmen to shoot back-to-back 68s.

Beau Hossler joined that group at four under thanks to a chip-in birdie on his final hole.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of the group at three under, and he shared the early clubhouse lead following a three-under 67. He is joined by Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman to round out the top-10.

Overnight leader Adam Hadwin is a further shot back at two under with Sam Burns and Matt Fitzpatrick, while South Africa's M.J. Daffue – who was three strokes clear atop the leaderboard early in his round at six under – posted five bogeys and no birdies down the back nine to head into the weekend at one under.

Also at one under are hopefuls Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris, still well within striking distance, while Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka headline the group at even par.

Star-studded duo Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at one over, and the pair of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are at two over, one stroke clear of the cut-line.

Finishing right on the cut-line at three over was recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who has a pair of top-three finishes this season.

Plenty of big names missed the cut, with the international contingent of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry, Chile's Mito Pereira and Canada's Corey Conners all one shot out at four over. Tony Finau finished five over, Cameron Smith was six over, and the pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were both at seven over.

 

Shot of the day

Cameron Young had a moment he will never forget when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par-three sixth.

There were huge cheers after the American's dream tee shot at the 165-yard hole dropped in. Young was unable to make the cut – missing out by one stroke – but not without achieving a rare feat.

Player of the day - Collin Morikawa

Morikawa produced the round of the day to ensure he is the man to catch heading into the weekend.

The two-time major winner was not at his brilliant best, but five birdies and just the one bogey at the par-five fourth putting him in the lead.

Chipping in

Morikawa: "No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow."

Scheffler: "I've been number one in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest."

 

A little birdie told me...

- Young's ace was the 48th in US Open history.

- Nick Hardy and M.J. Daffue emerged from the Springfield, Ohio qualifying. They both held a share of the lead on Friday.

- Scheffler is bidding to become only the second player to win this major while world number one since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008) is the only man to achieved that.

- Matthew Fitzpatrick is looking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning the US Amateur and US Open on the same course.

Dustin Johnson is confident his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series will not hamper his chances of winning more major titles.

Johnson made a promising start to the U.S. Open with a first round of 68 at The Country Club on Thursday, but followed that up with a three-over second round of 73.

The former world number one is playing in his homeland this week for the first time since he sensationally quit the PGA Tour to join the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway circuit.

Johnson does not believe his defection from the PGA Tour, and the consequence of not playing as many tournaments against the best players in the world, will make him less of a force at majors.

Asked how sharp he thinks he will remain by playing on the LIV Tour, the American said: "Just as sharp as I would playing anywhere."

Johnson is in no doubt he made the right by call by signing up to LIV Golf.

"Yeah, obviously it was a tough decision, but I feel very confident in the decision I made," he said. "Yeah, I'm definitely happy and looking forward to obviously this weekend and the rest of the events this year."

The 37-year-old says he has not experienced any hostility from the crowds in Brookline, Massachusetts this week. 

He said: "No, fans have been great. Obviously, this is a good sports town, and a lot of people come out and support the event."

Johnson was in a share of 27th place on one over with the second round still ongoing when his compatriot Joel Dahmen moved into the lead on five under through eight holes.

The season's third major begins on Thursday in Brookline, Massachusetts as the U.S. Open gets under way at The Country Club.

There will be a strange feeling at the tournament with it being the first major since the controversial LIV Golf International Series began.

The USGA has confirmed that players involved in the Saudi-backed breakaway who qualified for the U.S. Open will still be allowed to compete, despite the PGA Tour taking a harder stance and suspending those who played in last week's inaugural LIV Golf event in London.

That means the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia will be present in Brookline.

Tiger Woods will not participate due to fitness concerns, but there are plenty of other potential candidates to go for victory at The Country Club, such as world number one Scottie Scheffler and defending champion Jon Rahm.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at who they believe could succeed.

RORY'S THE STORY AND HE'S PRIMED FOR MORE GLORY – Russell Greaves

Rory McIlroy has set the standards on and off the course in recent weeks, his win at the Canadian Open coming after he had pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour in the midst of the inaugural LIV Golf event. That was the Northern Irishman's 21st PGA Tour title, fittingly edging him ahead of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a fact McIlroy himself was quick to point out. In Massachusetts, McIlroy can distinguish himself even further from the likes of two-time major winner Norman as he seeks a fifth such title and second at this event. With accuracy off the tee likely to yield a premium on this course, McIlroy has the game to match his momentum and will doubtless be well backed by punters and fans alike. Sunday also marks 11 years to the day since McIlroy won the U.S. Open, collecting his first major success in the process.

DJ READY TO PLAY THE VILLAIN – Ben Spratt

Sure, Rory's return to the winners' circle at a major would be great, but that story surely pales next to the possibility of one of the LIV Golf rebels swooping in and taking the title. Johnson likely remains the breakaway league's best bet. Of course, he would not be a popular winner in front of a presumably vociferous Boston crowd, and the form book is not in his favour either, but Johnson has the talent to spoil the party; a U.S. Open victory in 2016 was the third of three straight top-five finishes – and it was only 18 months ago he was dominating the Masters. The 37-year-old has not won any event this year, in what stands as a career first, but this would be some time to end that drought.

RAHM READY TO MAKE HISTORY AFTER PLEDGING PGA LOYALTY – Patric Ridge

"I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that." Those were the words of world number two Rahm, who is out to defend his title this week. Rahm finished T23 on his first appearance at the U.S. Open as a low amateur back in 2016, before he failed to make the cut in the next two years. However, he was tied for third in 2019 and T23 in 2020 prior to clinching his first major crown last year, finishing with two birdies on the final two holes to become the first Spanish golfer to win the major. The 27-year-old ranks first on the PGA Tour for shots gained off-the-tee, and although he struggled at the US PGA Championship, he has the opportunity to make history and create the legacy he dreams of in Massachusetts.

ROSE CAN BE A THORN IN RIVALS' SIDE – Peter Hanson

On the face of it, tipping a player ranked 48th in the world without a win to his name since January 2019 (Farmers Insurance Open) looks a little right field. At the time of that triumph, Justin Rose was world number one, but it has been a pretty mixed bag since then. Momentum is king in golf, though, and the Englishman scored a tie for fourth at the Canadian Open last weekend after shooting a sensational 10-under-par 60 in round four. Moreover, to win a U.S. Open you have to fight and scramble for a good score – qualities Rose, the 2013 champion, certainly possesses.

THOMAS HAS THE ENGINE NOT TO TANK – David Segar

Having won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in May, Justin Thomas comes into this full of confidence and with good reason. He showed incredible fight to edge victory against Will Zalatoris in a play-off in Tulsa, having trailed by eight shots with 10 holes to play in the final round. Ranked fifth in the world, Thomas has always had the talent but, like many, it was always a question of putting it all together when the majors came around. With the experience of doing so fresh in his mind, and showing good form with third place at the Canadian Open, Thomas could pull off the rare feat of back-to-back major wins.

Justin Thomas called it "sad" that LIV Golf continues to dominate the headlines in the lead-up to the U.S. Open.

LIV Golf's first event took place this past weekend, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

Made possible through Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the upstart tour has thrown exorbitant sums of money at PGA Tour players to poach them away, including Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson.

Speaking to the media after opting to not play in Monday's U.S. Open practice round, Thomas said the ubiquitous LIV Golf discussion during one of the great weeks on the golfing calendar was "sad".

"I grew up my entire life wanting to play the PGA Tour," he said. "Wanting to break records, make history, play Presidents Cups, play Ryder Cups.

"The fact that things like that could potentially get hurt because of some of the people that are leaving, and if more go, it's just sad. 

"It's really no other way to say it. It just makes me sad, because like I said, I've grown up my entire life wanting to do that, and I don't want to do anything else.

"The people that have gone, like I said, they have the decision that they're entitled to make. Not necessarily that I agree with it one way or the other, but everything has got a price, I guess."

He later added: "You can't go anywhere without somebody bringing it up.

"It's sad. This is the U.S. Open, and this is an unbelievable venue, a place with so much history, an unbelievable field, so many storylines, and yet that seems to be what all the questions are about.

"That's unfortunate. That's not right to the USGA. That's not right for the U.S. Open. That's not right for us players. But that's, unfortunately, where we're at right now."

Thomas was not done there, going on to discuss why he does not think the money is worth it, but also why it is not fair to make character assessments on the players who decided to make the move.

"There's no amount of money that you could get that [can make you happy doing something] you don't love or enjoy," he said. 

"You're still going to be miserable. You're still not going to enjoy it. Although you might be miserable in a bigger house or a nicer car, that doesn't necessarily mean that your life is going to be any better.

He added: "I'm the first to admit that there's times where people do something, and I bash them – obviously not externally – maybe internally with friends or whatever it is. It's not necessary.

"You can disagree with the decision. You can maybe wish that they did something differently… being in the media as a writer, you have to write about it. I understand that. 

"But for people at home to necessarily say that Dustin Johnson is now a bad person, that's not fair. That's just not right.

"Now, again, I said it last week, I'll say it again, do I wish he wouldn't have done it, and am I a little sad about it? Yeah – but it is what it is."

Bryson DeChambeau called his decision to join the LIV Golf series "very difficult", but the promise of a massive payday made the difference in the end.  

The first LIV Golf event took place this past weekend in London, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

Criticism has followed the Saudi-backed tour every step of the way, with its motivations being questioned due to the fact that it appears unlikely to turn a profit.

Speaking to the media for the first time since making the jump away from the PGA Tour, DeChambeau admitted his priorities were financial.

"It was a business decision, first and foremost," he said. "That’s all there was to it.

"It’s given me a lot more opportunities outside of the game of golf and given me more time with my family and my future family. So for me, that was the decision."

The 2020 U.S. Open champion said less than two weeks ago that joining LIV Golf would be a "risk" for him, but DeChambeau was reportedly offered a total of $100 million to participate in the series’ seven remaining events.  

"There was a lot of financials to it, and a lot of time," he said. "I get to have a life outside of the game of golf as well." 

While some players – notably Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na – have resigned entirely from the PGA Tour, DeChambeau has not surrendered his tour card. The PGA suspended 17 players for participating in the rival circuit, which resumes on June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon.  

PGA commissioner Jay Monahan said any future LIV players will receive the same punishment. 

DeChambeau largely avoided addressing the controversial nature of LIV Golf, which is funded through Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but he did make his first comments about concerns many fans have about the series’ connection to the Saudi government’s human rights violations.  

"What’s gone on has not been great," he said, “But they’re moving in the right decision from what I can see and what we’ve had conversations about." 

DeChambeau told the Golf Channel that he wants to play some PGA Tour events in the future.  

"I want to play where people can see great entertainment. I want to deliver that anywhere I'm at." 

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan described the LIV Golf Invitational as a "series of exhibition matches" while defending his decision to suspend players who defected to the breakaway series.

Charl Schwartzel, who won the inaugural LIV event near London this weekend, has been suspended from the PGA Tour along with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia for their involvement in the series.

The LIV series is set to hold eight 54-hole, no-cut tournaments with 48-man fields this year, with players not only earning significantly higher prize money, but taking substantial sign-on fees. Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have been the latest to defect.

Asked why golfers cannot compete on both tours, Monahan took an assertive stance.

"Why do they need us so badly? Those players have chosen to sign multi-year, lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again," he said on CBS' broadcast of the Canadian Open.

"You look at that versus what we see here today, and that's why they need us so badly.

"You've got true, pure competition, the best players in the world here at the RBC Canadian Open, with millions of fans watching. And in this game, it's true and pure competition that creates the profiles and presences of the world's greatest players."

Monahan was particularly critical of LIV's source of investment, with the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia which has been accused of sports washing and using the tour to take attention away from a history of human rights abuses.

He also said players who defected would "have to be living under a rock" to not consider that context, but chose instead to relate the significant outlay to sign players and hold events to the potential return on investment.

"It’s not an issue for me, because I don’t work for the Saudi Arabian government," Monahan said. "But it probably is an issue for players who chose to go and take that money. I think you have to ask yourself the question, why?

"Why is this group spending so much money — billions of dollars — recruiting players and chasing a concept with no possibility of a return? At the same time, there’s been a lot of questions, a lot of comments, about the growth of the game. And I ask, how is this good for the game?

"I would ask any player that has left, or any player that would consider leaving, have you ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?"

Charl Schwartzel survived a tense finish to the final round to hold off Hennie du Plessis by one shot and win the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational near London on Saturday. 

The South African carded a third-round 72 to finish seven-under par for the tournament, narrowly ahead of countryman Du Plessis in the 54-hole tournament.

A brilliant birdie on the final hole saw Peter Uihlein join Branden Grace one stroke further back at the Centurion Club to claim a share of third.

2011 Masters champion Schwartzel, one of seven major winners taking part in the breakaway series, will earn a reported $4.75million for his triumph.

He led the way at the end of the first two rounds and took a three-shot lead into the final day, which he started in good fashion by reaching the back nine without dropping a shot.

However, a double bogey on the par-four 12th opened the door for Du Plessis to make things a little more interesting in the race for golf's biggest ever prize.

Du Plessis got within a couple of shots of his Stinger GC team-mate, though Schwartzel had enough breathing space to finish with a bogey on the final hole that got him over the line.

"I was just trying to get this thing to the house. I had it in my hands and made it more difficult than it should have been," Schwartzel said.

"Hennie played fantastic golf and at 25 he has a bright future, he's playing fantastic golf. What [LIV Golf] have done is way beyond our expectations. It's out of this world."

Schwartzel, Du Plessis and Grace were all part of the same team, with Stinger finishing 14 shots ahead of the chasing pack.

Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player at the event, finished one-under par in eighth, while Phil Mickelson – the breakaway league's other superstar – was way down the leaderboard with 10 over.

The controversial Saudi-backed series will reconvene in Portland at the end of June for its second event, with more big names set to defect from the PGA Tour.

Patrick Reed and Pat Perez were confirmed as the latest to join the series on Saturday, while Bryson DeChambeau made the switch on Friday.

Charl Schwartzel holds a three-shot lead going into the final day of the LIV Golf Invitational in London after another impressive performance at Centurion.

The South African followed up his five-under opening round by going four under on day two of the 54-hole tournament.

His compatriot Hennie du Plessis is six under with Peter Uihlein two strokes further back.

Dustin Johnson, the two-time major champion and highest-ranked player at the event, is in a tie for sixth at one under.

He is one of only eight players under par after 36 holes, with Phil Mickelson struggling to get to grips with the course.

Mickelson ended the day four over par and, though there is no cut, his hopes of victory at the end of a week overshadowed by his and Johnson's ban from the PGA Tour for joining the controversial breakaway have surely gone.

Phil Mickelson made a solid return to golf at the controversial LIV Golf Invitational London, shooting a one-under first round to sit four back.

Mickelson was playing alongside Dustin Johnson – the breakaway league's other superstar – at the Centurion Club.

Both men were included on a list of players suspended by the PGA Tour shortly after teeing off, with the two captains – Mickelson for Hy Flyers and Johnson for 4 Aces – starting at the first.

"I'm excited, fresh, ready," said Mickelson, who had been absent from the golfing scene since his comments about Saudi Arabia were publicised and widely criticised.

Martin Kaymer carded the first LIV Golf birdie following the shotgun start, while Mickelson showed some good form off the tee but was a little rusty with the putter.

Both he and Johnson, who made a slow start, recovered to move within four of the individual lead, although Stinger were dominating the team event.

Team-mates Charl Schwartzel (five under) and Hennie Du Plessis (four under) were first and second, with Branden Grace (two under) in a tie for fifth.

The PGA Tour has suspended the 17 members who are playing in the first event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The news was confirmed in a memo signed by Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Thursday.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are among the players to have been suspended, though the latter two are among those who have notified the Tour of that they have resigned their membership.

Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are also among the other notable names featuring at the three-day event that will have 12 teams and 48 players

Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Matt Jones, Andy Ogletree, Peter Uihlein and Turk Pettit are the others included in the memo.

Monahan confirmed the decision to prohibit those players from playing on all features of the PGA Tour, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

The breakaway golfers will also be removed from the FedEx Cup rankings following this week's RBC Canadian Open and will not be eligible for the FedEx Cup or Presidents Cup.

"These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can't demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platforms as you," the memo read. 

"That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners."

Garcia, Westwood and Johnson were among 10 players to resign from the Tour to pursue their LIV Golf interests, but Monahan added they will not be granted sponsor exemptions to play in tournaments as non-members.

Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have been widely reported to have signed up to the lucrative series, though neither are playing this weekend.

Monahan said any players who do take part in future LIV events will face the same consequences.

The decision comes amid the widespread backlash against the controversial, Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway, with many accusing the event of sportswashing.

Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion and LIV Golf's CEO, suggested Saudi Arabia is "making a cultural change".

Mickelson found himself at the centre of the controversy last year when admitting to being aware of Saudi Arabia's human-rights record but signed up to LIV Golf anyway because "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

On the eve of the first tournament, Mickelson received a grilling from the media, and he told reporters: "I don't condone human rights violations, I don't know how I can be any more clear.

"I understand your question but again I love this game of golf, I've seen the good it's done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game over the world and I'm excited to be a part of this opportunity."

World number 17 Johnson is the highest-ranked player on the current LIV Golf list and acknowledged he did not initially know the repercussions of his decision, but said he had chosen "what's best for me and my family".

The PGA Tour has suspended the 17 members who are playing in the first event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The news was confirmed in a memo signed by Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Thursday.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are among the players to have been suspended, though the latter two are among those who have notified the Tour of that they have resigned their membership.

Rory McIlroy has reiterated he has no interest in joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series and believes decisions made purely based on money "usually doesn't end up going the right way."

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson this week quit the PGA Tour after agreeing massive paydays to join the breakaway LIV Tour.

Bryson DeChambeau is reportedly set to follow for the second event of the series, which starts in Portland later this month, while Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are also said to be ready to sign up.

Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are among the other players who will tee off in the first LIV Tour event at Centurion Golf Club on Thursday.

McIlroy has made it clear he is committed to the PGA Tour and will defend his Canadian Open title this week.

The four-time major champion says he would rather compete against the best players in the world than be tempted by wherever he could maximise his earnings.

"I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start. It's not something that I want to participate in," said McIlroy.

"I certainly understand the guys that went and understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life, and I'm certainly not knocking anyone for going.

"It is their life. It is their decision. They can live it the way they want to, but, for me, I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world.

"I was speaking to a few people yesterday and one of the comments was any decision that you make in your life that is purely for money usually doesn't end up going the right way.

"Obviously, money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world but if it is purely for money, it never seems to go the way you want it to, and I've had that before a couple of times before in my life.

"There are other things that are a part of it too, but it is a weird time in professional golf. I said it a couple of weeks ago, we are just going to have to see how this season plays out, and if any other guys do decide to go another direction than the established tours, see what the consequences are.

"For me right now, I can only speak personally. It is not something I envisage ever doing and I'm happy playing on the PGA Tour. I have a nice schedule, but I can pick for myself.

"I can spend a lot of time at home with my family if I want to, prioritise the majors and there is nothing about my schedule or my life or my earnings or anything that I would change."

Dustin Johnson has resigned from the PGA Tour in order to play in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The two-time major winner is one of the biggest names to sign up for the new league, and his loss represents a significant blow to the PGA Tour, of which he had been a member since 2007.

Johnson's decision to turn his back on the PGA Tour means he will be unable to complete in the Ryder Cup.

"It's too early to speak on what the consequences will be, but as of right now, I resigned my membership from PGA Tour, I'm going to play here for now, that's the plan," he told reporters.

"But what the consequence are going to be, I obviously can't comment on how the Tour is going to handle it.

"The majors, again I can't answer for the majors, but hopefully they'll allow us to play. Obviously I'm exempt for the majors, so I plan on playing there unless I hear otherwise."

Adding on the Ryder Cup, he said: "The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and has meant a lot to me, but ultimately I decided this was best for me and my family.

"All things are subject to change, and hopefully at some point it will change and I will get a chance to do that again."

After months of claim, counter-claim and controversy, the LIV Golf Invitational Series turns its focus to actual golf on Thursday.

The first event of a series previously known as the 'Super Golf League' gets under way at the Centurion Club, near London, next week.

A lucrative breakaway from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, there will be plenty of interest in how LIV Golf fares – even if it is a largely unpopular venture.

Regardless of its wider reputation, though, the money of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has still attracted some of the sport's best players.

So, what is the deal with LIV Golf? How does it work? Who will be playing? And why has it caused such uproar?

Stats Perform attempts to answer the myriad questions around this contentious competition.

What is LIV Golf?

A Saudi-backed rival to the PGA Tour has been rumoured for years, taking on various names before finally launching as the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion and LIV Golf's CEO, has described this as the arrival of "free agency" in golf, with leading players skipping PGA Tour events to play in the new series.

That is exactly what the PGA Tour sought to avoid when it vowed to ban any players who joined a rival league, although that promise has not yet come to pass.

"Our mission is to modernise and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike," reads LIV Golf's website, adding its aim to provide "a cutting-edge entertainment product".

That does not only mean a new series and new events, but also a new format...

How does it work?

Gone is the long-established structure of 72 holes across four days with the field cut after two rounds.

Regular season LIV Golf events will last only 54 holes and three days, with no cuts, meaning – organisers point out – there is no danger of eye-catching names being absent for the end of the tournament.

There are also shotgun starts, "ensuring a faster and more exciting pace of play", and smaller fields with only 48 players.

This may all be unfamiliar, but it is at least straightforward. The other changes are a little more complex.

Players will be pursuing individual glory, as at any other golf tournament, but there are also team prizes on offer, with each field broken up into 12 four-man teams.

At every event, there will be an individual winner – the traditional victor with the lowest 54-hole score – and a triumphant team, whose score will be calculated using their best two scores over the first two rounds and their best three from the third.

The first seven events of the season – four in the United States and one each in England, Thailand and Saudi Arabia – will provide a seasonal individual champion, while the year's most successful team are then identified at a further match-play knock-out tournament.

Who's playing?

With a number of big names publicly opposing the breakaway, Rory McIlroy referred to the then Super Golf League as the "not-so-Super League" back in February.

But LIV Golf claims to have received 170 applications and has been able to recruit some superstar talent – namely Dustin Johnson, whose agent said it was "in his and his family's best interest to pursue it".

"Dustin has never had an issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him," David Winkle added. "But in the end, [he] felt this was too compelling to pass up."

It remains to be seen how regularly Johnson will appear in the series, given the field is set to change for every event. He is on board for the London opener, though, alongside Sergio Garcia.

With the four-man teams – who will have their own logos, colours and names – to be tweaked at each tournament, captains will draft players to join them. Unlike at the Ryder Cup, these captains are also active players.

The opening London draft is set for Tuesday, but Phil Mickelson – the most notable and controversial potential LIV Golf star – will not be involved.

Given his previous interest, Mickelson is surely likely to appear at some stage, but he has not played for several months since his comments in relation to the tournament and its funding prompted an apology.

Why's it so controversial?

Any rebel league that threatened the PGA Tour was unlikely to be globally popular, but Saudi Arabia's influence has contributed significantly to the backlash.

The country's human rights record is of major concern, along with its role in the war in Yemen, so ventures such as these – and the acquisition of Premier League club Newcastle United – by its PIF are widely cited as examples of sportswashing.

Norman has suggested Saudi Arabia is "making a cultural change".

While he described the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 as "reprehensible", the LIV Golf chief added: "Look, we've all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward."

Norman was speaking last month, by which point Mickelson's own discussion of Khashoggi's death had done a great deal of harm to the league's reputation.

The six-time major champion acknowledged Saudi Arabia's "horrible record on human rights" but added he was willing to commit to LIV Golf as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

Mickelson made those comments in November last year, although they were reported earlier this year just as the series sought to launch.

Norman said the saga "definitely created negative momentum against us" and revealed "everybody got the jitters", causing some players to back out.

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