LIV Golf players, led by Dustin Johnson, find success at The Open amid backlash for breaking up

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The criticism leveled at LIV Golf players by their peers and the sport’s stakeholders galvanized them at the 150th Open, according to Talor Gooch.

Gooch posted a 3-under 69 on Friday to sit 7 under after the first two rounds at St. Andrews. With Dustin Johnson in fifth at 9 under and Sergio Garcia shooting a 6 under 66 in the second round, the LIV breakaway series players are firmly in the game for the Claret Jug entering the weekend.

A total of 11 of the 24 LIV golfers who took part in this year’s Open have qualified and will play the weekend at the birthplace of golf. Five were sitting in the top 20 after the second round on Friday. Johnson and Gooch were in the top 10.

Their play comes in the wake of criticism leveled at LIV Golf by the R&A and other golfers. Rory McIlroy said it would be “better for the game” if a LIV player didn’t win this year’s Open, while Tiger Woods said those who joined LIV had “turned their backs” on the sport.

Gooch has heard some of the criticism, and when asked if it motivated the LIV golfers to perform at St. Andrews, he replied: “Yes, of course. Everyone, it seems, is against us. , and that’s fine. Like you said, it kind of brought us together, I think.”

LIV golfers like Lee Westwood had promising early rounds, while Sadom Kaewkanjana, Abraham Ancer, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau are also in the mix chasing leader Cameron Smith at 13 under.

“I think there are strong players [in LIV], without a doubt. Everyone’s credentials speak for themselves,” Gooch said. “It’s obviously cool for me to see other guys playing well. We’ve caught a lot of criticism for what we’ve done here recently.

“I think one thing that cannot be questioned is the quality of the players who are there.”

But Johnson said the criticism was not a motivating factor for him.

“Not me because, honestly, I don’t read anything,” Johnson said. “So I wouldn’t know what you were saying or if there was anything negative that was said. I don’t pay attention to it.”

While those who joined LIV did not back down this week in their belief that it was the right call to join the splinter group, Gooch backtracked on previous comments regarding the new series.

After taking part in the LIV event at Pumpkin Ridge outside of Portland, Oregon, Gooch was asked about the atmosphere and said, “I haven’t played a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup, but I can’t imagine there’s much difference.”

Asked about those comments after his turn on Friday, Gooch said some players questioned his view.

“Yeah, a bunch of players came in, and they were like, ‘Really? Really?’ I was like, ‘Wait a second, guys. Give me a little break. I just won,'” Gooch said. “I was in the moment. I may have been a bit aggressive with the comments.

“We were pumped. I watch F1. I was so pumped to be able to spray champagne like they do in F1. I was in the moment. Maybe a bit aggressive as a commentary. took some heat for that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael C. Ford