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.

Mexico's Carlos Ortiz is the outright leader after the first round at LIV Golf Portland, finishing five under after his first trip around Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

He was on track for a bigger lead than the one stroke buffer he holds, with three birdies from his first four holes after beginning his shotgun start on the ninth tee, before back-to-back bogeys brought him back to the field.

Ortiz finished his round with three birdies on his final five holes, re-taking the lead in the final stages of play.

Dustin Johnson is just one stroke back in outright second place at four under, bogeying his first hole of the day as he started on the 18th, but it would be his only blemish, collecting five birdies and 12 pars the rest of the way.

Rounding out the top-five is Pat Perez, Hideto Tanihara, Wade Ormsby and Branden Grace in a tie for third at three under.

Playing in his first LIV Golf event, Brooks Koepka put in a good showing as one of 13 players to finish under par, tied for seventh along with Hennie du Plessis after their two-under 70s.

Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Scott Vincent and Yuki Inamori are tied for ninth at one under, while big names Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau headline the group at even par.

Koepka's brother Chase Koepka is at one over along with Mexico's Abraham Ancer, winner of LIV Golf's debut event Charl Schwartzel is at two over with Ian Poulter, and Phil Mickelson finished at three over with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Na.

Phil Mickelson tried to focus on the positives after a brutal week at the U.S. Open, as he finished round two 11 over par for the tournament.

This remains the only major Mickelson has never won after he missed the cut by eight strokes.

All eyes were on the 52-year-old, who has finished second at the U.S. Open on six occasions, following his return to action in the first LIV Golf Invitational.

Mickelson joined the controversial breakaway series for the opening tournament in London last week, having been out of the spotlight for a period.

Comments Mickelson made about his commitment to the Saudi-backed league prompted outrage and led to him taking time away from the sport.

This was therefore his first tournament back in the United States since the Farmers Insurance Open in January – another event at which he missed the cut.

But Mickelson at least showed some improvement on Friday with a three-over 73, having carded a dismal 78 in the first round.

"It was okay. I had a good day," he said. "I enjoyed the week. I wish I had played better."

Despite his move to LIV Golf, Mickelson appeared to remain popular with the fans in Brookline, and he added: "The fans here have always been terrific.

"They really support all sports, and I love it when we bring golf here because they create a really special atmosphere.

"I missed competing, but I also enjoyed some time away."

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.

Phil Mickelson has expressed his "deepest of sympathy and empathy" for the families of the 9/11 victims amid continued criticism over his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The controversial eight-event Saudi-backed breakaway circuit, which got under way in London last week, has a prize fund of $250million that is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Mickelson and the other American players taking part in the series have been accused by a group representing victims' families and survivors of "sportswashing" – the practice of using sport to improve a tarnished reputation.

Terry Strada, the chair of the 9/11 Families United, said in a statement: "Whether it was the appeal of millions of dollars of hard cash, or just the opportunity to prosecute your professional grievances with the PGA, you have sold us out.

"This is a betrayal not only of us, but of all your countrymen."

Strada cited Saudi Arabia's prominent role in the terror attack 21 years ago, with Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers being Saudi nationals.

In another uncomfortable news conference on Monday ahead of this week's U.S. Open in Massachusetts, Mickelson was asked directly about Strada's comments.

"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. I can't emphasise that enough," he said.

"I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them."

Asked if he intended to respond privately to the letter, Mickelson repeated his earlier answer.

Mickelson and the others to have joined up for the series have also faced criticism from their colleagues, with Rory McIlroy – the winner of last week's Canadian Open – among the more vocal of those to speak out against the LIV Series.

"I certainly respect Rory," Mickelson said. "I thought what a great finish on Sunday and a great accomplishment. What a career he has had. I certainly respect him. I respect his ideas. I respect all the players that choose to stay on the PGA Tour.

"I certainly think extremely highly of many of the players on the PGA Tour and their right to their own decisions.

"I gave as much back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf that I could throughout my 30 years here, and through my accomplishments on the course I've earned a lifetime membership. I intend to keep that and then choose going forward which events to play and not."

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.

Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have supported the PGA Tour's decision to suspend all players competing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent a memo to all members on Thursday confirming the news, shortly after LIV Golf's first event had launched at Centurion Club near London.

All 17 Tour members competing in the first Saudi-backed tournament of the breakaway series, including six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, were informed they are no longer eligible to play in events on the circuit.

The memo warned that any player featuring in future LIV events will face a similar punishment.

McIlroy said on Wednesday he understands why some have made the switch due to the huge sums of money on offer, but the Northern Irishman is pleased with the decision to block players from competing on both circuits.

"I think at this point, Jay [Monahan] has been pretty transparent in terms of he's just going to act within the tournament regulations and the rules that are set for a PGA Tour member," McIlroy said.

"All he's doing is basically going by the book. I think that the majority of the membership that are here this week and that haven't gone and played elsewhere really appreciate that.

"So, I think he's done the right thing because these guys have broken rules and done things outside of the tournament regulations, and because of that, there are going to be consequences, I guess."

McIlroy was speaking after carding an opening-round 66 at the RBC Canadian Open on Thursday, with Thomas three shots further back.

While the four-time major winner is against the idea of the breakaway series, he will be tuning in out of curiosity.

"I think like everyone else, I'm intrigued and I'm a fan of golf," McIlroy said. "I've got quite a few guys over there that I call friends that are playing. 

"Yeah, of course I'll see it and watch it and see what all the fuss is about."

Mickelson is the highest-profile casualty of Thursday's announcement, with Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia having already notified the Tour that they have resigned their membership.

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

Echoing the comments made by McIlroy, Thomas said: "I'm pleased. I think anybody that's shocked clearly hasn't been listening to the message that Jay and everybody's been putting out. They took that risk going into it, whether they thought it was a risk or not.

"Like I've said the whole time, I have great belief and great confidence in the PGA Tour and where we're going and continuing to grow to, and those guys just aren't going to be a part of it.

"[LIV Golf] are obviously throwing so much money at people that it's very hard to turn down. I don't care what you say in terms of that people play for different reasons. It doesn't matter who you are or what it is, everything has a number.

"They're reaching that number for some people, and I hope that they don't get others. But I think a very strong core group of us is very stable and firm in our position, and I hope that it stays that way."

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.

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."

Phil Mickelson will not resign from the PGA Tour and has confirmed he intends to take part in next week's U.S. Open, despite his LIV Golf Invitational Series involvement.

The 51-year-old will end a four-month self-imposed exile from golf on Thursday when the inaugural LIV Golf event gets underway at Centurion Club on the outskirts of London.

Mickelson was met with widespread condemnation after criticising the PGA Tour earlier this year, for which he apologised and vowed to take a step back from the game.

That saw the six-time major champion miss The Masters and the defence of his US PGA Championship, though he is still registered to play at the upcoming U.S. Open.

And while Mickelson refused to confirm whether he has been serving a PGA Tour ban for his controversial comments, he will not voluntarily quit the American circuit.

"I've been a part of the tour for over 30 years and I've had a lot of incredible memories and experiences, tournaments that I've won and lost," he said on Wednesday.

"I've gained a lot, received a lot and I'm grateful for everything the tour has done for me. I've also worked hard to contribute and build and add value to the tour in my time there.

"I worked hard to get a lifetime exemption. I don't want to give that up. I don't feel I should have to. 

"I don't know what's going to happen. I've earned that and I don't plan on just giving it up.

"I've really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour. I've had some incredible experiences, great memories and I have a lot of strong opinions that it should and could be a lot better. 

"One mistake I've made is voicing them publicly. I will make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors moving forward."

Mickelson then confirmed he will compete in next week's U.S. Open in Massachusetts and added: "I'm looking forward to it."

The United States Golf Association, which runs the major, has already announced it will not stop those competing in the LIV Golf series from playing at The Country Club.

Unlike Mickelson, others taking part in the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit – such as Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia – have resigned from the PGA Tour.

"I saw that and I think they're making the decision that's best for them personally," Mickelson said.

"I respect that. As a lifetime member I'm not required to play 15 events. I don't have to play any. I can play one. So I don't see a reason for me to give that up."

Mickelson is reported to have been given a $200million signing-on fee to appear in LIV Golf events, but he refused to be drawn on the specifics during a tense news conference.

"Contract agreements should remain private," he said.

Phil Mickelson said he does "not condone human rights violations" but signed up to participate in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series because he thinks it can do good for the sport.

Mickelson is arguably the most-notable name involved ahead of the first event of a series previously known as the 'Super Golf League', which gets under way at the Centurion Club, near London, on Thursday.

A lucrative breakaway from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, its bankrolling by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has attracted some big names.

Each regular-season event will have a purse of €25million, which is already $5m greater than the most-lucrative event on the PGA Tour, the Players Championship.

LIV Golf's season-ending championship event will have $50m up for grabs, making it comfortably the biggest purse in the sport.

But funding of the series by Saudi Arabia's PIF has led to significant criticism due to the country's poor humans rights record, with critics labelling LIV Golf another example of "sportswashing" – the practice of improving a tarnished reputation through the hosting or funding sporting events or entities.

Mickelson found himself at the centre of the controversy last year when admitting to being aware of Saudi Arabia's grim 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."

During his news conference, Mickelson again offered his regret at some public comments made in the past.

But he was then asked if he was sorry for "speaking the truth about the Saudis" or for the "shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway".

He replied: "I understand many people have very strong opinions and may disagree with my decision, and I can empathise with that."

Following a significant pause, he continued: "But at this time this is an opportunity that gives me the chance to have the most balance in my life going forward and I think this is going do a lot of good for the game."

Phil Mickelson has confirmed he will play in the first event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series, but he still intends to feature at the upcoming majors this year.

Dustin Johnson headlined the entrant list for the opening event at Centurion Club near London, which starts on Thursday, but Mickelson was an initial surprise omission from the entry list for the Saudi Arabia-funded competition.

Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood are also among the high-profile names set to feature at the three-day event that will have 12 teams and 48 players.

Mickelson was met with widespread condemnation after criticising the PGA Tour earlier this year, for which he apologised and vowed to take a step back from the game – even missing the defence of his US PGA Championship last month.

His comments on LIV Golf were also met with significant backlash after he said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights", but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

But Mickelson, who once again reiterated his apologies for his earlier comments, announced on Monday that he will indeed play at the inaugural LIV Golf event.

"I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers," the American said in a statement. 

"I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course.

"I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me. I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity."

Mickelson opted to not defend his PGA Championship this year amid the furore, but the 51-year-old plans to return to compete at the majors alongside his LIV Golf involvement.

"I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved. I also intend to play the majors," he added.

"I fully realise and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I emphasise with that. I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game.

"I am incredibly grateful for the support of my fans, partners, and peers and I hope in time, those sentiments, relationships and support continue."

Greg Norman, chief executive and commissioner of LIV Golf, added in a statement reported by Sky Sports: "Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation.

"His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him.

"He strengthens an exciting field for London where we're proud to launch a new era for golf."

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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