While seven of the top 12 players heading into Saturday’s third round at the U.S. Open made at least one double bogey in strong wind and cool temperatures, Rory McIlroy was not among them.

The 2011 U.S. Open champion and four-time major winner made just one birdie in his score of three-over 73 on moving day at Brookline, but his putter provided salvation late. 

He was able to keep himself within striking distance with a string of par saves, to sit three shots back from co-leaders Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick heading into the final round on Sunday at The Country Club.

"It was one of the toughest days on a golf course I’ve had in a long time,” McIlroy said afterwards.

"I just needed to grind it out, and I did on the back nine. To play that back nine at even par today was a really good effort, I thought. Just kept myself in the tournament. That's all I was trying to do. Just keep hanging around.

"I had some really good putts for pars coming in, 13, 15, great up-and-down on 16, good putt on 17. Then was really fortunate at the last to get that drop from the grandstand and be able to hit it on the green from there."

With only nine players under par for the tournament, blustery and overcast conditions provided palpable difficulty on Saturday.

"I know guys aren’t going to go out there and shoot the lights out," McIlroy said. "I mean, 67 from Will out there today is unbelievable. Such a good score. 68 from Fitz as well.

"I certainly thought I was going to be a few shots further back than I was at the end of the day, but Jon [Rahm] struggled there coming in.

"Even though it was such a tough day and feel like I battled well and whatever, to still only be three back going into tomorrow is a good thing for me."

Jon Rahm remains upbeat coming into the final round at U.S. Open, after a difficult Saturday saw him finish one stroke from tied leaders Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

The world number two held the outright lead approaching the 18th hole at Brookline, but a double bogey put him on one-over for the day and three-under after 54 holes.

Blustery and overcast conditions made moving day at The Country Club more about survival, and Rahm remains within contention despite his disappointing finish to the round.

"Good round of golf," he said afterwards. "It was obviously extremely difficult conditions, the wind being a little bit higher and stronger than the last few days, a different direction. Then the course being a little bit firmer, right, that's just a recipe for difficulty.

"Obviously, I think a lot of people are just thinking about 18. The truth is, 18, it was six good shots. Unfortunately, it added up to 6, but it was all good swings.

"If anything, it was maybe a choice or a decision on the fairway bunker, but swings were good, so execution was proper. So I'm happy about that in that sense."

The defending champion hit the bunker with his tee shot on the 18th and compounded that by hitting its lip and staying there, before finding another bunker with his next shot and two-putting for the double bogey.

It came after three birdies between 14 and 17 to put him on five-under, momentarily moving ahead of Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick as conditions dramatically cooled, placing further difficulty on shot and club selection.

"After I hit the shot, I realised the ball was a little bit deeper in the sand than I could really truly see," he said.

"But I think I got maybe -- tried to be a little too perfect with the shot. I had a 9-iron in hand. That's plenty to get over that lip.

"It is what it is. I think I got a little bit too cute with the shot."

Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead coming into the final round at the U.S. Open, finishing a tough Saturday on four-under par at Brookline.

Only nine players at this third major of the year have scores under par after 54 holes at the Country Club, and the tied lead between Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick only came after Jon Rahm's dreadful final hole in overcast and blustery conditions.

The world number two had the outright lead coming into his final hole on moving day, but three consecutive bunker shots and a two-putt led to a double-bogey on the par-four 18th and three-under after 54.

Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick have not won as professionals in the United States, with the former agonisingly finishing second at the 2021 Masters and this year's PGA Championship.

With Zalatoris finishing his round earlier in the day, Rahm finished as the conditions further cooled, placing particular difficulty on the approach to the green with club selection.

A visibly frustrated Rahm was able to compensate with some exceptional putting on the back nine, however, sinking a long birdie putt on the 14th to put him level with the two leaders. Three birdies between 14 and 17 were undone by the last hole, however.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from a double-bogey and three consecutive bogeys between 11 and 14 to finish Saturday on two-under, securing a birdie on the 17th before a massive par save on the last after hitting the bunker.

The usually stoic Scheffler did not hide his emotions with a triumphant fist-pump after the save, which left the world number one tied with Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley.

Joel Dahmen and Collin Morikawa fell down the leaderboard after opening Saturday with the lead on five-under. Morikawa's natural left-to-right game particularly suffered, shooting a seven-over 77.

Dahmen is joined on one-under by Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, who only made seven greens in regulation but stayed in contention with a string of saves on the back nine.

 

Shot of the day

After two birdies and a bogey through his first seven holes, Scheffler really shone on the eighth.

His stunning eagle on the par-five hole saw him leap into a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard.

Player of the day - Will Zalatoris

In a day characterised by survival in blustery conditions at Brookline, Will Zalatoris was one of the few on Saturday who thrived.

His ball-striking shone on an overcast day, scoring only one bogey as the rest of the field struggled to find the green.

 

Chipping in

Zalatoris: "Yeah, that was brutal. When I made a mistake, I made sure I was on the fat side of the green or having room where I could maybe at least chip one up there from eight to 10 feet."

Scheffler: "There's a lot of trees on this golf course, and it's gusty as well. So it's definitely unpredictable. I think that's what happens when you get these foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place." 

 

A little birdie told me...

- Victory on Sunday would see Fitzpatrick emulate Jack Nicklaus, winning the U.S. Open at the same course he won the U.S. Amateur, after beating Oliver Goss at the Country Club in 2013.

Justin Thomas says he is relishing the tough U.S. Open conditions despite seeing his chances of winning back-to-back majors surely disappear.

The 29-year-old, who won the US PGA Championship last month, carded a third-round 72 on Saturday to leave him on three over par going into the final day.

Thomas had no complaints over the set-up at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the wind made life difficult for the best players in the world once again.

"I played really, really well," he told a media conference. "It was very difficult out there. I just didn't get anything out of it.

"I fought back and stayed very patient for having some things not go my way. It's a bummer to finish with a bogey on 18, but I really played solid today.

"I hit it really well. I drove it well. Hit my irons really well. Just had a hard time saving pars when I missed greens, but yeah, tee to green I played beautifully.

"I said to Bones [his caddie Jim Mackay] walking up 18, this is how a U.S. Open should be. It's very difficult. Par is great score on a lot of holes. Bogeys aren't going to kill you.

"We don't do this very often, and I think it's very, very fitting and totally acceptable to have this kind of test and this difficult setup for a U.S. Open, and it's strictly because of conditions.

"The greens are getting firm. It's windy, and it should be tough."

Will Zalatoris moved into the lead on four under with with a hugely impressive three-under 67 and he Matthew Fitzpatrick joined him when he birdied the 15th.

Scottie Scheffler had been two shots clear before a double bogey at 11, followed by another three dropped shots in as many holes.

 

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.

Adam Hadwin ended Thursday as the outright leader following the opening round of the U.S. Open in Brookline, Massachusetts.

The Canadian shot a four-under-par round of 66, one ahead of five players tied for second, including Rory McIlroy, who had been four under himself before bogeying his final hole on the ninth.

Callum Tarren, David Lingmerth, Joel Dahmen and M.J. Daffue sit alongside McIlroy, with seven more players on two under, including Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson.

It was otherwise not a great day for some of the LIV Golf International Series participants, with Phil Mickelson carding an opening round of 78 (seven over), while Louis Oosthuizen managed just one shot better and Sergio Garcia finished on four over.

LIV Golf's new additions Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau ended even par and one over respectively. 

World number one Scottie Scheffler recovered from a wobbly start to finish on even par, while PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas ended the day one under, as did the man he beat in a playoff for that trophy, Will Zalatoris.

Defending champion Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Adam Scott also shot one-under rounds of 69, while world number four Patrick Cantlay came away from Thursday two over.

Shot of the day

After ending up just off the green in the longer grass on the 12th, a precision chip from Matt Fitzpatrick still had a significant distance to travel, but slowly rolled its way straight into the hole to the delight of the Englishman and the Brookline crowd, sending him back to two-under straight after bogeying the 11th.

Player of the day - Adam Hadwin

Hadwin sat on one over after three holes, before birdieing five of the next six to catapult himself into the leading pack. The 34-year-old has never finished higher than T39th in this tournament, and also responded to a bogey at 12 with another immediate birdie at 13, and then ended with five tidy pars to head into day two as the outright leader.

Chipping in

Rory McIlroy: "I'm going into tomorrow with the mindset of 'let's keep it going', rather than 'where is the cut line' or whatever. If you don't get off to a great start, those thoughts start to creep in, 'okay, what do I need to just be here for the weekend?'"

Jon Rahm (asked about two children stealing his ball on the 18th hole): "Yes… I'm pretty sure I know who it was. I recognised the two kids that were running the opposite way with a smile on their face. (Laughing) I am 100 per cent sure I saw the two kids that stole it."

A little birdie told me...

- McIlroy's 67 was the 13th of his career at the U.S. Open, now level with Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia for most by a European player at the tournament.

- Lingmerth, ranked 592nd in the world, has never finished worse than tied for 21st in three previous U.S. Open appearances, and the Swede started with a promising 67 here.

- The first round scoring average of the last 10 winners at the U.S. Open is 69.1, with 25 players hitting under that on Thursday.

Rory McIlroy has always seemed to possess an older head on young shoulders.

Indeed, when the Northern Irishman burst onto the scene in 2009, his success belied his inexperience.

His first major title came at the 2011 U.S. Open, as he finished eight strokes clear of Jason Day at Congressional Country Club in Maryland. Three more followed in the space of three years; two at the US PGA Championship and one at The Open.

It has been eight years since McIlroy claimed a major honour, but heading to The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, the 33-year-old's form is as strong as it has been since he lifted his second US PGA title in 2014.

And in recent months, McIlroy has been seen as one of the voices of reason amid the emergence of the LIV Golf Invitational, which started in London last week.

Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural event of the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway competition, which has drawn the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

"If it keeps going the way it's going, it's going to fracture the game – sorry, it's going to fracture the game more than it already is," McIlroy, desperate to focus on his own game this week, told Sky Sports on Tuesday.

"The professional world in golf has already been fractured, there's so many different tours, so many different things to follow, and I've always been an advocate of trying to make it more cohesive and try to get people to work together more. This is ripping that apart.

"It's certainly a burden I don't need. But I have pretty strong views on the subject and I don't think it would be right for me to have these strong opinions and not share them."

Perhaps what golf needs more than ever right now is a unifying force that both players and fans can get behind. McIlroy might present just that.

Rory reinvigorated

It has been a brilliant year so far for McIlroy. According to official PGA Tour statistics, he ranks first for scoring average (68.842), top for strokes gained: tee-to-green (1.888) and strokes gained total (2.282), while he also comes in third for driving distance (319.1 metres) and strokes gained off-the-tee (.913) so far this season.

That form has resulted in six top-10 finishes, including his second place at the Masters in April, which came courtesy of a bogey free 64 in the final round, and his victory at the Canadian Open last week.

Defending his Canadian Open crown will have given McIlroy a timely boost heading to Massachusetts, following on from his eighth place at the US PGA Championship last month. He is in fine fettle, but needs to overcome his major hoodoo...

Getting over the line

Four major titles in the space of four years seemed to have paved the way for McIlroy to go on and join the true greats of golf, but it has not quite been that way.

Since winning the U.S. Open in 2011, McIlroy has failed to make the cut on four occasions at this major, though has recorded top-10 finishes in each of the last three editions of the tournament.

His best result at any of the majors since 2014 came at Augusta earlier this year, but as we have seen in other tournaments on the circuit, McIlroy has been known to squander strong positions, and he might even prefer to be in the chasing pack come Sunday.

In January 2021, McIlroy held the 54-hole lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship, but a final-round 72 saw him finish third. He finished five shots back from the winner and it was a similar story at the DP World Tour Championship in December, when he missed the chance to become the first player to win the event for a third time, giving up a last-day lead to finish five behind Collin Morikawa. 

Composure will be key for McIlroy this time around, should he be in contention.

 

A date with fate?

It might just be a coincidence, but fate is a funny old thing, and Sunday will mark 11 years to the day since McIlroy won his first major, when he claimed the U.S. Open so convincingly.

Another iron in McIlroy's fire could be that his win at the Canadian Open moved him onto 21 PGA Tour titles, edging him ahead of LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman. Going on to seal his second U.S. Open triumph, 11 years since he claimed his first, would be a fitting way for McIlroy to prove he is on the right side of this particular divide.

Now, he just has to go out and perform.

Linn Grant became the first female winner on the DP World Tour after triumphing at the Scandinavian Mixed in Sweden.

Grant, a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour this season, went into Sunday at the Halmstad Golf Club with a two-shot lead.

The 22-year-old never let slip of that advantage at the event where 78 women and 78 men from the DP World Tour played over the same course for one prize fund.

Grant opened with five birdies in her first six holes before adding three more on the back nine en route to her eight-under 64.

That took her to 24-under for the tournament, a remarkable nine shots ahead of the second-placed Marc Warren and tournament co-host Henrik Stenson, and she hopes to have left a lasting impact on golf.

"It's huge. Just playing at home and having the crowds here, my family by my side, boyfriend on the bag – it's crazy and I'm proud of myself," she said after victory.

"I just hope that people recognise women's golf, more sponsors go to the Ladies European Tour and hopefully this pumps up the women's game a little bit more.

"It's a nice feeling. All week I just felt like it's the girls against the guys and whoever picks up that trophy represents the field."

Grant also finished 14 shots in front of her nearest female challenger Gabriella Cowley, who ended tied for 15th.

Kalle Samooja carded a magnificent final round of 64 to claim his maiden DP World Tour title in the European Open at Green Eagle in Winsen.

The Finn saw off Dutchman Wil Besseling by two strokes after posting an astonishing eight under on Sunday to seize victory from behind.

The 34-year-old had looked to be comfortably out of the running at the end of the third day, after a score of 74 left him two over following par scores on Thursday and Friday.

But Samooja was able to take advantage of a frustrating day for previous leader Victor Perez, who came back down to earth after a sublime hole-in-one on Saturday.

Having made par across the first five holes, a run of five birdies in the next seven helped haul the Samooja into contention as his rivals faded.

Back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th helped seal the deal, and Samooja was left to celebrate his first tour triumph after an unlikely surge.

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.

English golfer Eddie Pepperell claims stars who sign up for the LIV Golf Invitational Series are making it obvious "what money means to you".

Former world top-50 star Pepperell says many players are taking "a big risk" by aligning themselves with the series that is being funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

Former U.S. Open and Masters champion Dustin Johnson, 37, is among the 42 confirmed entrants for the first event, which will be held at Centurion Club near London from June 9-11.

Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood are also set to feature in a tournament that will have 12 teams and 48 players.

There have been claims of the event being an attempt at sportswashing, and while Pepperell did not level that accusation, he suggested a lust for money had to be the prime motivation for players who have gone against the wishes of the PGA Tour and European Tour by agreeing to take part.

"From a ROI [return on investment] perspective, the field for the first LIV event is awful," Pepperell wrote on Twitter. "Obviously they're banking on that changing over time. You have to wonder how long they'll keep pouring that amount of money into this if that change doesn't come quickly.

"Plus, deteriorating financial conditions across the world may have an impact. Nobody will be impervious to what we're seeing and what we'll continue to see economically into the next 18 months.

"The players who have signed up should be upfront and honest about their reasons to do so. And it has to be the money. There's nothing wrong with chasing money or higher salaries, people do it across all industries.

"It's somewhat understandable from the older guys… But to those under 35/40 who have signed up, you have taken a big risk. And it shows to the rest of us (peers included) how little commitment you have to your respective Tours (who have done a lot for you), and ultimately what money means to you."

The inaugural tournament clashes with the Canadian Open on the PGA Tour, an event at which Johnson is a previous winner.

Rory McIlroy described the Canada event and this week's Memorial Tournament as "proper golf tournaments" on Wednesday, as he reflected on the LIV Series line-up.

"I certainly don't think the field is anything to jump up and down about," McIlroy said of the Centurion Club tournament.

Northern Irishman McIlroy has tempered his comments on the LIV Series in recent months, having previously been robust in his opposition.

He understands its appeal to some, but has been quite clear he will not be taking part.

"Some guys are in a position where they are not guaranteed a job next year. It's hard to stay in the top 125, especially when you're in your 40s and maybe don't hit the ball as far as you've used to. As we've seen, it's a young man's game nowadays," McIlroy said.

"So if another entity comes along and says, 'we'll guarantee you this amount for three years', plus you're playing for a ton more prize money, you're playing fewer events and you can spend more time with your family it's very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position."

Phil Mickelson had long been linked with the LIV Series, but the 51-year-old has not played since apologising for comments made about the Saudi Arabia regime and has not been included on next week's start list. The American said in February he was taking a break from golf and did not defend his US PGA Championship last month.

Tiger Woods reiterated his delight that he is even able to be back out on the course after he made the cut at the US PGA Championship.

Woods had a difficult first round at Southern Hills County Club, carding 74 to leave him with plenty of work to do to make the weekend.

Yet the 15-time major champion recovered in fine fashion on Friday, going round in 69 to leave him at three over and T53.

While a push for a fifth US PGA Championship title – and a first since 2007 – seems unlikely, Woods is relishing being back at the biggest events.

He returned at the Masters last month just over a year after suffering serious injuries in a car accident in California.

"Well, just the fact that I'm able to play golf again and play in our biggest championships," he said after his round on Friday.

"As I alluded to earlier, you guys all know, I'm not going to be playing a lot of tournaments going forward. They're going to be the biggest tournaments.

"I want to be able to play the major championships. I've always loved playing them.

"Coming back here to a place that I've had success on, to play against the best players in the world, that's what we all want to be able to do.

"Fortunately enough, I'm able to somehow do it. I've had a great PT staff that have put Humpty Dumpty back together."

Bubba Watson matched the lowest round in PGA Championship history as he shot 63 in his second round to propel himself up the leaderboard.

And Watson's effort is something Woods hopes he can replicate over the weekend to put himself in contention.

"I'm hoping I can shoot a number like Bubba did today," he added. "That's where my mind is at right now. I've got to do some things physically to get myself there tomorrow and it will be a quick turnaround.

"That's the reward you get for just making the cut. You get to tee off early the next day, and hopefully I can get it in. The weather is supposed to be a little more difficult and be a little more testy, and hopefully that's the case.

"If that's the case, hopefully I can post a good round and at least move up the board, get myself within striking distance on Sunday. I'm pretty far back, but you just never know.

"Major championships are hard to win. We've seen guys with big leads or have made big comebacks, so you just never know."

Will Zalatoris says he "got away with murder" after overcoming a rough start on day two to take the lead of the US PGA Championship, finishing five under after a superb performance.

The San Franciscan topped the leaderboard at Southern Hills Country Club with nine under after two rounds, as Rory McIlroy faded from the summit and Tiger Woods scraped the overall cut.

The 25-year-old, who is chasing his first major after a second-place finish at the Masters last year, made one under par through the first nine before powering through the pack with a turkey between the 11th and 13th.

But Zalatoris felt he made a lucky escape after a few wayward shots early on looked to have checked any momentum he might have built.

"I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in," he said.

"Same thing on 17, being able to get out of there with birdie where it was looking like I was going to be making 5.

"10 was really the big one, compounding two errors and hitting one really good golf shot and saving par, I just kept the round going today.

" I made a bunch of six or eight-footers for par that kept the day going, and obviously being bogey free around this place is pretty nice.

"We lucked out with the draw for sure. I played the last eight holes with not much wind, but take it when you can get it."

Zalatoris is teeing up a tilt at a maiden triumph in one of golf's four most-storied events, having nabbed T8 at the PGA last year and T6 at the US Open the year before.

"They're tough golf courses that allows my ball-striking to really give me the best chances," he added on his prospects in majors.

"Obviously these greens aren't easy, but hitting them on the right tiers and being able to have the 15-to 25-footers where I'm not going up and down slopes is huge.

"But the other part, too, I think is just I've kind of had an attitude with the majors, especially since the Masters, where I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as I could.

"I don't want to leave anything. Looking back from 20 years from now I don't want to regret my attitude or anything like that.

"So I just make sure that after really every single shot I hit, it's just... I don't want to say life or death, but make sure I'm fully committed to everything that I do because we only get four of them a year."

Tiger Woods says Rory McIlroy "made it look very easy" after the Northern Irishman set the early pace on day one of the US PGA Championship.

Seeking a first major in eight years, McIlroy carded five-under 65 to take a one-shot lead into the clubhouse at Southern Hills on Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who won this event in 2012 and 2014, closed with a birdie on the final hole – his seventh of the day – to put himself in strong contention for another title.

He teed off in a marquee group alongside Jordan Spieth and Woods, who carded 74 and 72 respectively, with the latter impressed by what he saw from McIlroy.

"Obviously you can shoot something in the mid-60s, Rory proved that today," Woods told Sky Sports. "He made it look very easy. 

"He had a couple of shots where he slipped away and he still shot five under and made it look very easy."

McIlroy, who finished second in last month's Masters after shooting a record-equalling eight-under 64 on the final day, is not getting carried away just yet.

"I came in here knowing that my game was in good shape," McIlroy said. "So it's just a matter of going out there and executing the shots that you know that you can.

"Today I did that very well and I just need to try to replicate that tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and not get ahead of myself, but it was a great start."

While McIlroy is in a strong position, Woods faces an uphill battle to make the cut, as he did at the Masters last month, but he is not giving up hope of a big recovery on Friday.

"It can be done, I've witnessed it first-hand, so hopefully I can put together something similar tomorrow and get myself back in this tournament," he said.

The 15-time major winner is competing in just his second tournament since sustaining serious leg and foot injuries in a car accident 15 months ago.

Woods felt some discomfort towards the end of an erratic opening round, which ended with him nine strokes behind McIlroy.

"Physically, I've felt better," he told Sky Sports. "Emotionally, I've actually felt better too. 

"It was frustrating. I got off to a great start today, I did exactly what I needed to do starting out the round, but I did not keep it going.

"I hit a lot of bad iron shots, put myself in a lot of bad spots and never really gave myself any birdie putts. 

"I actually felt comfortable with the driver, I hit a lot of fairways with it, but from there it wasn't very good. Most of my bunker shots I hit were long, came out hotter than I thought. 

"But predominately I just hit bad iron shots. That's not normally how I play, but today unfortunately that's kind of what it was."

Tiger Woods made a bright start to his US PGA Championship quest as he headed out in esteemed company with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

The star trio played to a bumper early-morning gallery at Southern Hills, Tulsa, where Woods won his fourth and most recent US PGA Championship title in 2007.

Woods had a birdie at his first hole and was one under through three holes, with Spieth and McIlroy soon joining him on that mark.

Starting at the 10th hole, all three began well off the tee, with Woods receiving by far the loudest reception and hitting the longest drive of the trio at 339 yards.

"Do you mind giving me some breathing space please. Back off a little bit," Woods said towards a camera crew as he walked down the first fairway.

He fired a sweet wedge to three feet away from the hole and made no mistake from that range, holing for an immediate birdie.

Woods found the heart of the green at the short 11th, his second, and sent his putt to just six inches away, tapping in for par.

He had a birdie chance at 12 from around 20 feet away but pushed it just right of the hole. McIlroy and Spieth made their first gains at that hole.

Speaking on Tuesday, Woods said he could "definitely" be a title contender, despite this being just his second tournament back since the February 2021 car crash that saw him sustain serious leg and foot injuries. He made the cut at the Masters last month, before fading as the hilly Augusta course took a physical toll on the 46-year-old former world number one.

"My team did just an amazing job just to get me to a point where I could play the Masters and I was able to have that opportunity to play," Woods said. "Right after each round, it was like getting back to the house and we have an ice bath ready for you, and off you go, get on the treatment table and let's keep working at it, keep things going, and it was tough. It was hard. It was hard on all of us.

"But I've gotten stronger since then. But still, it's still going to be sore and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It's going to be that way for the foreseeable future for sure."

John Daly, the 1991 US PGA champion, was two under through seven holes and held a share of the lead with Robert MacIntyre, Max Homa, Y.E. Yang, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris early in the first round.

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