The US Open has changed its focus from Saudi money to the toughest golf test | Sports news

Author: DOUG FERGUSON, writer of AP Golf

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts (AP) – The US Open is not the only American major who felt like an afterthought, lost between gossiping and allusions to non-birdie and bogey issues.

Golf was no longer a major concern at the 1990 PGA Championship in Shoal Creek, Alabama. The club’s founder said Shoal Creek would not be forced to accept a black member. Corporate sponsors began withdrawing television commercials, protests were planned, and Shoal Creek extended its membership with the CEO of Black Insurance a week before the PGA.

Until the first tee shot, most of the stories were about the controversy and its wave effect in golf, not whether Nick Faldo could have won his third major of the year.

At the Masters in 2003, battle lines were drawn between activist Martha Burk and her demand for Augusta National as a female member, and club president Hootie Johnson, who stubbornly claimed that the day could come, but “not at the bayonet point.”

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Tiger Woods was preparing for an unprecedented third Masters in a row and received 10 questions from the media about social issues and chaos in Augusta. And when Thursday came, the opening round was washed away by rain.

The difference is that the US Open has been overshadowed by developments that are not its own.

Just his luck, returning to The Country Club at the 122nd Open and his century-old heritage came a week after the Saudi-funded LIV Golf rebel series began outside London.

Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, the two biggest defectors, are among the 14 players suspended on the PGA Tour for registration and who are now playing the US Open. There are rumors all week that more players could sign up for Saudi money next week.

Mickelson defended his decision. Rory McIlroy said players who signed up for 54-hole events without cuts and guaranteed money “choose the easier route.”

“We pray that this will change tomorrow,” USGA chief Mike Whan said on Wednesday. “I can even say that you do not have to ask how we perceive it. Ask 156 players who are trying to get into tomorrow. They are trying to focus on what we are trying to focus on.

“I think – I hope – as soon as we start tomorrow, we’ll have something to talk about, at least for the next four days.”

It starts with a local flavor. Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen, who grew up in the Boston area and won the US Junior Amateur, hit the opening shot from tee no. 1. Fran Quinn, who is 57 and lives about 40 minutes from Brookline, will start from no. .

During his training rounds, Mickelson received only encouragement and support – not as tumultuous as in other years. During his opening round, he can expect several performances of the song “Happy Birthday”, as he will be 52 on Thursday.

What they face is an old-style pitch, dense rough around most of the small greens, costumed framed fairways that aren’t the narrowest at the US Open, and still an important part of keeping big numbers off the cards.

The 11th pair with a pair of 3 has 131 yards according to the card and will probably play below 100 yards. The fifth hole is short enough for players to drive the green.

The US Open is usually about accuracy over force, with patience for everyone. Recent history, however, leans toward big hitters – Jon Rahm last year, Bryson DeChambeau on Winged Foot, Gary Woodland on Pebble Beach, Brooks Koepka back-to-back and Johnson on Oakmont.

“You should probably have an advantage if you’re a little longer,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s chief championship officer who prepares the track. “I don’t know how it plays here.” We’re going to find out. We’ve been here for 34 years. “

It was in 1988 that Curtis Strange defeated Nick Fald in the playoffs. Both were known for their precise iron play and avoiding big mistakes.

“It will be a good old US Open with rough games and we will see how they navigate and what they will use from the tee,” Bodehamer said. “I’m telling you, with these little greens and a fortress, they’ll have to be fairway.”

In terms of cash prizes, the US Open has fallen in line with other major tournaments, if not a step higher. The PGA Tour set the tone by raising The Players Championship wallet to $ 20 million in the hopes of adding big companies.

The Masters and PGA Championship shot their wallets at $ 15 million (both at least $ 3 million), while the US Open rose by $ 5 million to $ 17.5 million.

This can’t be compared to the $ 25 million prize the LIV Golf series has to offer for its 54-hole events, which last week saw only four of the top 50 players in the world.

It is a history, a trophy that dates back to 1895, making it the second oldest golf championship. That should be enough to draw attention to yourself in four days.

“We are here in the main championship and we are here to win the US Open, and we are here to play and beat everyone else in this field, in this great field,” said two-time major champion Collin Morikawa. “That’s what it’s about.”

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