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LIV Golf lives as much as noisy status in first spherical

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BEDMINSTER, N.J. — LIV Golf’s slogan is “golf, however louder” — a 180 from the usually hushed ambiance at most tournaments. 

It definitely seemed like that on Friday when the controversial Saudi-backed league teed off for the opening spherical at Trump Nationwide Golf Membership Bedminster. 

The noise began lengthy earlier than gamers even arrived on the course, with the group 9/11 Justice holding an emotional and spirited protest mid-morning simply three miles down the street from the membership’s entrance. Issues solely obtained noisier and at instances weirder from there. 

Simply previous to the afternoon shotgun begin, the Beastie Boys’ “Battle For Your Proper” performed all through the venue. Then, three paratroopers landed on the property whereas carrying an enormous American flag to kick off the festivities. 

With all 12 teams teeing off on the identical time — ferried out to their respective holes on a small military of golf carts — Phil Mickelson was about to get underway on the par-3 sixteenth when a man heckled him by shouting, “Do it for the Saudi Royal Household!” 

Phil Mickelson swings in the course of the opening spherical of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational.
Getty Pictures

The group grumbled, Mickelson backed away from his ball then promptly dumped his tee shot within the sand earlier than making bogey, whereas safety reportedly warned the spectator. 

“No,” Mickelson mentioned when requested if it was disappointing to get heckled. “I had a extremely good day. Individuals right here have at all times handled me nicely.” 

Not that he gave them a lot to get enthusiastic about with a 4-over 75 that left him 11 pictures again of particular person co-leaders, Patrick Reed and Henrik Stenson, who was making his LIV debut. On the energy of Reed’s 64, his crew, which incorporates Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez and Talor Gooch, led Stenson’s crew by a shot. 

However Friday was much less about what was taking place on the golf course within the 54-hole, no-cut event, than it was in regards to the scene throughout it. 

On the middle of all of it was the person whose title is on the entrance gate. 

The final time the course hosted a event — the 2017 U.S. Girls’s Open — then-President Trump noticed the proceedings from a glass-enclosed balcony. Friday, he was omnipresent on the grounds. 

Donald Trump watches the first round of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational.
Donald Trump watches the primary spherical of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational.
Shutterstock

Trump emerged from the clubhouse to go to gamers on the driving vary and watched them tee off on the opening gap, waving to the group, lots of which cheered him in assist. Different instances, he chatted with LIV CEO and commissioner Greg Norman in addition to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Funding Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund that has offered the backing for LIV with a more-than $2 billion funding. 

The previous President additionally moved in regards to the property in his customized golf cart replete with a presidential seal, whereas his son, Don Jr., son-in-law and former adviser Jared Kushner and Caitlyn Jenner had been amongst these in attendance. 

As for the golf itself, that regarded and felt very like another event, although the crowds had been extra sparse. 

There additionally wasn’t a lot in the way in which of heckling. Other than the preliminary barb directed at Mickelson, who ditched the PGA Tour for LIV for a reported $200 million assured, a lot of the followers heaped reward on the 52-year-old six-time main champion who stays in style within the New York Metropolitan space. 

Help for different gamers was additionally pretty typical, even when the scale of the group wasn’t large. Translation: There was loads of elbow room, and close-up views weren’t onerous to come back by, even for different notables, similar to Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed. 

That was the case at every of the primary two LIV occasions, too, with discounted or free tickets being hawked on social media. 

One other aspect that made the occasion completely different than the remainder of golf was the music that was piped in all through the course throughout play, lending to the laid-back vibe. 

“It was enjoyable,” Charles Howell III, who was making his LIV debut, mentioned. “The music taking part in, I actually appreciated that. I performed lots of skilled occasions, by no means performed with that.” 

Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the first hole.
Dustin Johnson performs his shot from the primary gap.
USA TODAY Sports activities

But on the identical time, Howell and others mentioned they discovered the course to be tough and located themselves focusing as if it had been another event. 

“As soon as we began it was a golf event once more on a tough golf course,” Howell mentioned. 

Added Stenson: “I felt extraordinarily targeted right this moment and was actually into my sport. You may’t ease up your focus out right here.” 

However Mickelson mentioned he sees different advantages. 

“The explanation why I’m so excessive on LIV Golf is it addresses the 2 areas that for the 30 years that I performed the [PGA] Tour they’ve tried and struggled,” he mentioned. “That means LIV has an opportunity to carry skilled golf all through the world. 

“The gamers, once they enroll we obtain a ton of cash and we quit our schedule and we decide to wherever they maintain the occasions. … I believe that’s a extremely large factor.”


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