US Open begins with Rahm, McIlroy set for early charge | Golf News

BROOKLINE (USA): Defending champion Jon Rahm and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy were set to be charged early as the 122nd US Open began on Thursday with the PGA Tour-LIV Golf splitting a major sub-plot .
Rebels of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series and stars of the established US PGA Tour were both in the field of 156 at the Country Club.
The US Golf Association has opted not to follow a PGA Tour ban of 17 golfers who played in LIV Golf’s debut last week in England, sticking to the qualifying standards for this year’s US Open.
LIV Golf is offering the biggest purses in sports history at $25 million per regular season event, $7.5 million more than this week’s US Open prize pool total.
While big names in the LIV Golf breakaway like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson had afternoon tee times, two who didn’t, Rahm and McIlroy, stood out among the morning surge. of starters on a 7,254-yard course destined to offer headaches galore with dense rough and tough-to-hold greens.
World number two Rahm won his first major crown at Torrey Pines at last year’s US Open and claimed his first title since then at the PGA Open of Mexico last month.
“Getting the first major is a big weight on my shoulders,” Rahm said. “I feel like I can enjoy it a little more and know that you don’t have to do anything special to do it.”
The 27-year-old Spaniard starts the first tee at 7:18 a.m. (11:18 GMT) alongside reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa and fellow American James Piot, winner of the 2021 US Amateur who shared 25th place of the opening of LIV Golf.
McIlroy, 33, starts on the 10th tee at 7:40 a.m. alongside Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and 2021 Japanese Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.
McIlroy, who won the PGA Canadian Open last week, hasn’t won a major title since the PGA Championship in 2014.
The Northern Ireland star will be looking to become the first player since 1934 to win the US Open after winning the week before.
“It’s definitely going in the right direction,” McIlroy said. “I’m happy with where the game is.”
Mickelson, a six-time major winner, who turned 52 on Thursday, would end a career Grand Slam with a victory and break his record as the oldest major winner in golf from last year’s PGA Championship at age 50.
But the American southpaw’s shared 33rd-place finish at the LIV Golf opener was his first result after a four-month layoff taken after he apologized for comments about the Saudis that were made public last February.
Mickelson called LIV’s Saudi backers ‘frightening’ and condemned their human rights record, but said he supported the influence they gave in their dealings with the PGA .
Other LIV Golf players with late starts include South African Louis Oosthuizen and two American players who joined last weekend, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed.
The afternoon starters also include Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and England’s Justin Rose, winner of the 2013 US Open.
Abraham Ancer of Mexico withdrew Thursday morning due to illness. He was replaced on the pitch by American Patton Kizzire.

Michael C. Ford