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Inside the wildest two weeks in the history of professional golf
One day, years from now, when the history of professional golf is analyzed in full, the two-week stretch of June 7 through June 19 of 2022 may go down as one of the most consequential and volatile periods in the history of the sport. There is a good chance this stretch will have altered the landscape of golf permanently. A rival tour debuted, a major championship was awarded and legacies were burnished and diminished.
The sad, the surreal, the serious and the speculative all wrestled for space, with everyone trying to make sense of it all. From the moment Phil Mickelson resurfaced in London to the moment the USGA crowned Matt Fitzpatrick as its 2022 U.S. Open champion, we were there to bear witness, chronicling everything we saw, whether it was a wild drive into the woods or a drink-serving robot in the media center. What follows is a timeline of the past two weeks, one that will likely leave you with the same conclusion we had: Golf will never be the same.
Reporting by Mark Schlabach, Kevin Van Valkenburg and Paolo Uggetti
11:01 a.m. (London time)
The new era of professional golf begins with a familiar but unexpected face behind the microphone: Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer shows up at the first LIV Golf news conference as the moderator. A reporter asks Fleischer how he squares his current employment with a previous tweet criticizing former United States President Barack Obama, saying the POTUS was spending hundreds of billions to avoid being “overthrown like a Saudi king.” Fleischer says that tweet, when you look at world relations, was a “long, long time ago.”
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) June 7, 2022
“I’m very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it’s done for me,” Johnson says. “I’ve done pretty well out there for the last 15 years. But this is something that was best for me and my family. It’s something exciting and something new.”
Asked if he plans to spend more time fishing when he’s not playing golf, Johnson jokes, “I can do whatever I want.”
11:53 a.m. (London time)
Graeme McDowell, addressing a question about sportswashing, refers to the brutal torture and murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as “the Khashoggi situation,” then says if the Saudis want to use golf as a force for good in the world, LIV Golf players will be “proud” to help them, drawing harsh criticism from human rights activists.
1:20 p.m. (London time)
Talor Gooch, asked what he thinks about allegations LIV Golf is using he and other golfers for the purpose of sportswashing, says he disagrees. “I don’t think that’s fair. Also … I’m a golfer. I’m not that smart. I try to hit a golf ball into a small hole. Golf is hard enough. I try to worry about golf, and I’m excited about this week.”
2:27 p.m. (London)
LIV Golf debuts its drink-serving robot, which maneuvers its way around the press room while reporters work on stories, offering sodas and crisps.
There is a LIV Golf robot driving around the media tent and offering up drinks as reporters work to file stories. I share this tweet for informational purposes only, not to #GrowTheGame pic.twitter.com/WBL9JXaEPq
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) June 7, 2022
I previously informed the USGA that I will not be competing in the @usopengolf as my body needs more time to get stronger for major championship golf. I do hope and plan to be ready to play in Ireland at @JPProAm and at @TheOpen next month. I’m excited to get back out there soon!
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) June 7, 2022
1:01 p.m. ET
In a news release, the USGA announces that Mickelson, Johnson and other LIV players who were suspended by the PGA Tour are welcome to play in the U.S. Open. Thirteen players — and two others who would later sign with LIV Golf — were exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open by meeting certain criteria.
“Regarding players who may choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question: Should a player who had earned his way into the 2022 U.S. Open, via our published field criteria, be pulled out of the field as a result of his decision to play in another event? And we ultimately decided that they should not,” the USGA said in the statement.
Mike Whan, the CEO of the USGA, told The Associated Press that the governing body didn’t feel it was appropriate to exclude the players from the field after they’d already met criteria to be included in the field.
“I realize people have strong points of view and think perhaps there should be some morality clause,” Whan said. “As I said to our team last night, with more than 9,300 entrants for the U.S. Open, if we decide what’s on their sleeve or their bag or what tour they’re playing, what we think is OK and not OK, I’m not sure that circle ever stops. We don’t track personal beliefs and who funds them. It doesn’t mean we don’t care.”
9:18 p.m. (London)
Phil Mickelson returns to the public eye for the first time in four months, showing up at the LIV Golf draft party sporting facial hair and wearing a leather jacket. In a scene that feels more like a techno dance club than a golf tournament, Mickelson sits at his laptop and gives word that he is drafting Justin Harding, Ratchanon Chantananuwat and Chase Koepka. It later becomes apparent that some teams were predetermined, that the draft was essentially meaningless, as the South Africans admitted they agreed to team up beforehand.
11:01 a.m. (London)
Mickelson strolls into the media center for his opening news conference wearing aviator sunglasses and no logos other than his own. He cracks a joke about trying to honor the “long history of the HyFlyers” with his draft strategy, but quickly turns serious when asked to explain if he still feels the Saudis are “scary motherf——.” He repeats the phrase “I don’t condone human rights violations” four times during a solemn and surreal news conference.
11:16 a.m. (London)
Mickelson plays a pro-am with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. When Al-Rumayyan stripes a drive down the fairway, Mickelson beams. “Great shot, Your Excellency,” he says.
1 p.m. (London)
Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are asked if there is anywhere in the world they would decline to play for moral reasons. Would they, for example, play a tournament with prize money put up by Vladimir Putin? “I’m not going to answer that,” Poulter says. “I don’t have to answer that.”
9:48 a.m. ET
At the RBC Canadian Open, Justin Thomas admits he’s been losing sleep over the massive unrest in the world of professional golf. “Look, people are entitled to choose as they wish,” Thomas says. “I don’t dislike DJ now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. … I’m disappointed and wish he and others wouldn’t have done it, but that’s their decision. Selfishly, I think and I know the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world. It’s just a bummer that those guys won’t be a part of it.”
12:30 p.m. ET
Bryson DeChambeau‘s agent confirms the worst-kept secret in golf, that DeChambeau is joining LIV and will debut at its second event in Portland, Oregon, the first one in the United States. He’s rumored to be getting $100 million in guaranteed money.
“Bryson has always been an innovator,” agent Brad Falkoff says in a statement. “Having the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something unique had always been intriguing to him. Professional golf as we know it is changing and it’s happening quickly.”
In the hours that follow, stories about DeChambeau appear in various publications with anecdotes detailing what a headache DeChambeau has been for the PGA Tour.
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) June 10, 2022
2:20 p.m. (London)
LIV Golf is minutes from debuting, and players are cramming inside London black cabs with their caddies.
Courtesy cars for LIV Golf series opening event at London black cabs. pic.twitter.com/guTHQW2MR4
— Alex Thomas (@alexthomascnn) June 8, 2022
Cab drivers have been hired to drive the players to their tees as part of the opening ceremony in LIV Golf’s shotgun-start format at Centurion Golf Club. The logistics, however, are proving to be complicated as LIV officials can’t find all the players.
“Did I hear that Shaun Norris is walking to 15?” one operations official shouts.
“I don’t know who Shaun Norris is,” answers another. “I know who Charl Schwartzel is.”
2:25 p.m. (London)
Mickelson makes his way to the first tee at Centurion as the O’Jays’ 1974 hit “For The Love of Money” blares over the loudspeakers. He’s wearing aviator sunglasses and a black vest with an Augusta National Golf Club logo on the breast. The logo appears to be blacked out. A boisterous crowd has gathered for his opening drive. Five members of The Queen’s Guard — dressed in traditional red coats and bearskin caps — announce the start of the tournament with trumpet blasts. Mickelson finds the fairway with his opening tee shot.
2:29 p.m. (London)
Minutes after the opening tee shots are hit in London, the PGA Tour releases a letter from Jay Monahan to current tour members announcing it is suspending the 17 members who joined LIV Golf.
“I am certain our fans and partners — who are surely tired of tired of this talk of money, money and more money — will continued to be entertained and compelled by the world-class competition you display each and every week,” Monahan’s letter states.
2:30 p.m. (London)
Viewers quickly realize LIV Golf doesn’t have a working scoreboard on its website, making it difficult to tell who is leading unless you are watching the tournament as it streams on YouTube. Announcer Jerry Foltz declares on the broadcast that the “sold-out crowds” are loving the action at Centurion Club, even though scores of tickets were available for free in the days leading up to the event.
7:20 p.m. (London)
At the conclusion of the first round, Mickelson briefly stops to talk to the media, but two LIV Golf security guards physically prevent journalist Alan Shipnuck — author of the recent unauthorized biography of Mickelson — from entering the area where reporters are able to ask questions. Shipnuck texts LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to express his frustration, and Norman responds that he hadn’t heard. Video soon emerges revealing that Norman was standing behind Shipnuck, scowling, during the entire incident.
— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) June 9, 2022
7:27 p.m. ET
Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United and a widow of a victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sends a letter to five players who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf: DeChambeau, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na.
In the letter, Strada said the group wanted to “express our outrage at your partnership with LIV Golf.”
“Given Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11 — your fellow Americans — we are angered that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this history in their request for ‘respectability,'” Strada wrote. “When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave — and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture.”
In the letter, Strada noted that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis.
“Please, do not insult our loved one’s memories and take the pathetic position, as one of your foreign colleagues did last week, claiming you are ‘just golfers playing a game’ or blandly treating the evils of the Saudi regime as ‘human rights’ concerns,” Strada wrote. “You are all Americans, keenly aware of the death and destruction of September 11. 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.”
9:15 p.m. (London)
LIV Golf’s plan to host a concert after each round continues to find success. Despite a light rain falling on the second day of the tournament, nearly 500 fans are still at the course nearly three hours after play has concluded, eager to hear musician James Bay.
“How are we doing?” Bay shouts. “Have we had a nice day of golf? This a quintessential British night, isn’t it? Sing along with me if you know this next one; it’s called ‘If You Ever Want to Be In Love.'”
11:56 a.m. ET
During the telecast of the LIV Golf event outside London, commentator Arlo White announces that 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed is defecting to the new circuit. White proclaims that “fans will love him” and players will welcome him “with open arms.”
LIV Golf announces the addition of Reed, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, less than hour later in a news release.
“He has a proven track record as one of the most consistent competitors in pro golf and adds yet another big presence at our tournaments,” Norman said. “He’s a major champion who has had a significant impact playing international team competitions, and he’ll bring another impressive dynamic to our team-based format at LIV Golf.”
I’m excited to announce that I have joined LIV Golf, and being part of this new and innovative league. I look forward to growing the game of golf and bringing even more entertainment to golf fans across the world. Can’t wait to tee it up in Portland! pic.twitter.com/13XGV6jvaY
— Patrick Reed (@PReedGolf) June 11, 2022
Reed was set up well to welcome LIV’s offer. Since January, Reed has missed four cuts on tour and only has one top-10 finish. A source familiar with the Reeds said that the poor performance — and the subsequent lack of prize money — led to Reed being even more receptive to a LIV offer. In February, Reed let go of multiple members of his team, a move the source described as a likely cost-cutting measure. But the move goes beyond the money.
“The Reeds have a miserable relationship with the PGA Tour,” the source said. “I know nothing would make them happier than giving the Tour a big middle finger … he’s been playing the Saudi International on the European Tour for years now and loves it. He has great relationships over there.”
6:15 p.m. (London)
In an interview with ESPN, Strada says she feels disgusted watching LIV golfers work directly for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, some receiving hundreds of millions of dollars, when she and other families are still involved in a lawsuit against the country for its alleged role in training and funding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Strada’s husband, Tom, died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
“It feels like a betrayal,” Strada said. “My husband was a scratch golfer. He was a Phil Mickelson fan. He even tried to be a pro before he worked on Wall Street. My youngest is the captain of his golf team. Our family understands the integrity that the sport requires. But these guys are not interested in any of that. They’re sportswashing.”
7:31 p.m. (London)
Charl Schwartzel taps in a bogey putt to finish at 7 under, good for a 1-stroke victory over Hennie du Plessis to win the first LIV Golf event. It’s Schwartzel’s first win in six years and earns him $4.75 million, the largest haul in the history of tournament golf.
“It’s a historical moment,” Schwartzel says.
During the trophy ceremony, the winning team of Schwartzel, du Plessis, Louis Oosthuizen and Brandon Grace spray each other with bottles of champagne.
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) June 11, 2022
“Trust us,” Norman tells the crowd, “this is just the beginning.”
7:35 p.m. (London)
During the trophy presentation, Al-Rumayyan announced to the crowd that since LIV is 54 in Roman numerals and 54 is “a perfect score in golf,” (a birdie on every hole) he would award any player who shoots a 54 on the LIV Tour with $54 million.
Schwartzel said he hadn’t given much thought to why LIV Golf was able to offer such lucrative prizes.
“Where the money comes from is not something I’ve ever looked at in 20 years,” Schwartzel said. “I think you could find faults in anything.”
3:30 p.m. ET
In an interview on CBS Sports during final-round coverage of the RBC Canadian Open, Monahan defended the PGA Tour’s decision to suspend 17 players who competed in LIV Golf’s inaugural event outside London.
“It’s been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions, those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament regulations,” Monahan said. “It’s my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans. And that’s exactly what I did. And I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation.”
Monahan didn’t back down from his previous position that tour members had to choose one circuit or the other but couldn’t play in both.
“Why do they need us so badly?” Monahan said. “Because those players have chosen to sign multiyear lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again. 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.
“And that’s why they need us. That’s what we do. But we’re not going to allow players to free ride off of our loyal members, the best players in the world.”
When asked about players being criticized for competing on a tour that is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Monahan didn’t hold back. Survivors and families of victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and others have accused players of participating in sportswashing for Saudi Arabia.
“I think you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications,” he said. “And I would ask any player that has left or any player that would consider leaving: ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?'”
5:42 p.m. ET
McIlroy, a four-time major champion and one of the most outspoken critics of LIV Golf, cards a final-round 62 to win the RBC Canadian Open in Ontario. It was the 21st victory of his PGA Tour, which he was quick to point out moved him past Norman in career wins.
— Matt Schick (@ESPN_Schick) June 12, 2022
“I think going up against the best and beating the best always makes it extra special,” McIlroy said afterward. “And then, look, I alluded to it, I had extra motivation of what’s going on across the pond. The guy that’s spearheading that tour has 20 wins on the PGA Tour and I was tied with him, and I wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did. So that was really cool for me, just a little sense of pride on that one.”
8:40 a.m. ET
Practice rounds and player arrivals begin, with Reed playing by himself and getting a muted reception on the first tee. After he sliced his opening tee shot and took another, one fan quipped: “Must be those Saudi balls.”
10 a.m. ET
More LIV players arrive at The Country Club. Johnson and Na show up in succession — Johnson carrying three pairs of shoes and Na wearing a Saudi Golf polo. Johnson made a beeline for Harold Varner III who, upon hearing Johnson call his name, replied: “Talk dirty to me!” Varner has since said he’s not headed to LIV.
Everywhere you turn on Monday, the talk is about LIV. There are people theorizing about what bigger sponsors will do with LIV players, caddies talking to caddies about what it was like in London and players talking to one another about it all.
“Jay [Monahan] is putting on a full-court press,” one player said.
1 p.m. ET
In his first news conference in the U.S. in more than four months, Mickelson is bombarded with questions about LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations.
Mickelson addressed the letter he received from 9/11 families.
“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,” Mickelson said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them.”
Mickelson, who reportedly received $200 million to sign with LIV Golf, was asked if he would speak to or write to members of the coalition. He declined to answer the question directly.
“I think I speak for pretty much every American in that we feel the deepest of sympathy and the deepest of empathy for those that have lost loved ones, friends in 9/11,” he said. “It affected all of us, and those that have been directly affected, I think I can’t emphasize enough how much empathy I have for them.”
Later that day, Strada released a statement in which she accused of Mickelson and other players of “sportswashing” for the Saudis.
“They are helping the Saudi regime ‘sportswash’ their reputation in return for tens of millions of dollars, at the very same time our government is rolling out more damning evidence of Saudi culpability in the 9/11 attacks,” she wrote. “As the PGA Tour commissioner said Sunday, ‘You’d have to be living under a rock’ to not understand the implications of involving yourself with the Saudis.”
5:31 p.m. ET
Wyndham Clark, who went into Sunday two shots behind McIlroy at the RBC and had a chance to win, recognizes the significance of what had happened in Toronto, especially in contrast to the LIV event in London.
“Having some of the best players in the world showing up, seeing how great and electric the fans were compared to our counterpart, it was pretty awesome,” Clark told ESPN. “Obviously, I wish I was the one hoisting the trophy at the end of it, but maybe it was the best thing for golf that Rory won.”
When asked to explain his reasoning, Wyndham says that McIlroy’s strong belief in and commitment to the PGA Tour during this time, combined with him being vocal about the issue and winning in such a fashion is a much-needed public confirmation that “our product is the best.”
“Obviously those guys are getting a lot of money, but it’s exhibition,” Clark says. “You saw [Monday] how competitive the Tour is compared to what they have. Their field is very weak right now and we have the best players in the world.”
9:10 a.m. ET
In a news conference, McIlroy expresses his disappointment with PGA Tour players who took “the easy way out” by joining LIV as well as Mickelson’s role in the process. Asked if he had lost respect for Mickelson, McIlroy says: “As a player, no.”
Rory McIlroy expresses his disappointment in the PGA Tour players who joined the rival LIV Golf Invitational Series.
McIlroy heads out for his practice round and is an instant fan favorite at The Country Club.
“Way to go, Rory, great shot at Norman!”
“We love you, Rory, way to be a leader!”
McIlroy is asked why he had has taken on a leadership role.
“Because in my opinion it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The PGA Tour was created by people and tour players that came before us, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players that came before us and all the hard work that they’ve put in just come out to be nothing.”
10:07 a.m. ET
Defending U.S. Open champion and former world No. 1 golfer Jon Rahm says his heart is with the PGA Tour because he wants to play against the best players. Rahm tells reporters that he hasn’t had conversations with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia about LIV Golf.
“Nobody is talking about winning that event in London with the essence that some other events have,” Rahm says. “And that to me is what’s attractive, being able to consider yourself champion of this with a history that comes with it.”
Rahm says his biggest concern about the fracture is how it will affect players’ eligibility for the Ryder Cup, which he calls the “biggest attraction” in the game.
10:38 a.m. ET
During a news conference, two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka criticizes reporters for continuously asking about the LIV Golf series. The four-time major champion even says the talk is casting a “black cloud” over the year’s third major.
“I’m here at the U.S. Open,” Koepka said. “I’m ready to play the U.S. Open, and I think it kind of sucks, too, you are all throwing this black cloud over the U.S. Open. It’s one of my favorite events. I don’t know why you guys keep doing that. The more legs you give [LIV Golf], the more you keep talking about it.”
When Koepka was asked if there was a monetary amount that would cause him to defect to LIV Golf as well, he said he hadn’t “given it that much thought.”
11:10 a.m. ET
In a news conference, Whan acknowledges that he could foresee a day when it’s more difficult for LIV Golf competitors to qualify for the U.S. Open. “I could foresee a day,” Whan said. “Do I know what that day looks like? No, I don’t. To be honest with you, what we’re talking about [LIV Golf] was different two years ago, and it was different two months ago than it is today. We’ve been doing this for 127 years, so I think [the USGA] needs to take a long-term view of this and see where these things go. So we’re not going to be a knee-jerk reaction to kind of what we do.”
11:20 a.m. ET
A player manager, whose client defected from the PGA Tour, tells ESPN that one of the reasons the Tour was vulnerable to LIV Golf was its unwillingness to adapt to change. While the tour’s history and tradition is part of its fabric, the manager says, its inability to modernize is costing its players.
“It’s kind of like the U.S. Constitution and the Bible,” the manager says. “What was true about the Second Amendment more than 200 years ago might not be true today. The Bible says an ‘eye for an eye,’ and we don’t believe that anymore.”
1:14 p.m. ET
Before the U.S. Open started, Scott Stallings admitted he was excited to be able to play a home game. Stallings grew up about 45 minutes from The Country Club. He steps to the tee and is introduced as being from “War-chester.” He’s from Worcester, which is pronounced “Wu-str.” The announcer gets heckled for the mistake.
1:47 p.m. ET
In his first tournament in the U.S. since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January, Mickelson makes his 31st start in the U.S. Open, the one major he has never won. Before hitting his opening tee shot, Mickelson is heckled by a few Boston sports fans.
“Phil, Celtics, minus-3.5, who do you like?”
“Greed is good, Phil, greed is good.”
Playing with partners Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen, who is another LIV Golf competitor, Mickelson bogeys three of the first five holes, then cards a double-bogey on the par-3 sixth.
Mickelson shoots 8-over 78 in the first round.
1:02 p.m. ET
Mickelson answers his opening 78 with a 3-over 73 in the second round. He misses the cut and his 36-hole total of 11-over is the fifth-highest score to par in the first two rounds of a major championship.
“I enjoyed the week. I just wished I’d played better,” Mickelson said afterward before jumping into a courtesy SUV with his team and leaving the club.
Only four of the 15 LIV players competing in the U.S. Open made the cut.
2 p.m. ET
After missing the cut, Mito Pereira, who lost the PGA Championship in a playoff against Justin Thomas, says he is planning on staying on the PGA Tour where “the best players are” — for now. Most of the international players who have left for LIV have been in their 40s, with up-and-coming players like Pereira, 27, and fellow Chilean Joaquin Niemann, 23, staying put.
“Everyone has their own opinions,” Pereira said in Spanish. “I’m open to whatever could happen in the future. … At the end of the day, you’re talking about a lot more money, but the best players are still here and I want to play against them.”
As one international golf official put it, some of the young players from Latin America have been intrigued not just by the money LIV is offering, but the ability to host a tournament in their home country. One player was reluctant to talk about about the LIV tour, saying it was “cosas de las brujas,” meaning the whole situation was so strange that there is almost a fear to talk about it out in the open.
“Some guys are waiting to see what happens with LIV and see if some of the heat comes off,” the official says. “There’s also no space right now. I think some guys are waiting to see what happens with it, if they add more spots or change it.”
12:55 p.m. ET
Thomas, ranked fifth in the world and the winner of the most recent major championship, steps to the tee to start his round. He is introduced as “Justin “Thompson.”
7:11 p.m. ET
Navigating The Country Club on Saturday was hard enough, given the windy, cooler conditions. For McIlroy, it was a hard walk as he scraped it around in 3-over 73. Making things even more difficult were some other obstacles that had shown up all week at The Country Club.
3 p.m. ET
As the leaders teed off, the man who had called the LIV conversation a “black cloud” on the U.S. Open and said he didn’t come to the tournament hoping for second place, takes extended time signing autographs for fans just outside the clubhouse. Brooks Koepka finishes 12-over after a final-round 77. Koepka’s brother, Chase, has already played one LIV event. It stands to reason that Brooks Koepka could be a candidate to also bolt. If so, the Sunday scene seemed like a particularly poignant way for him to say goodbye.
6:51 p.m. ET
When Will Zalatoris’ birdie putt just misses the hole and Fitzpatrick celebrates his U.S. Open win on the 18th green, one of the first people congratulating him is McIlroy. The four-time major winner made a late charge Sunday, but his 2 under on the tournament is not enough. Still, he sticks around The Country Club.
“All that work pays off, I’m so happy for you,” McIlroy told Fitzpatrick as they embraced.
The two golfers from the UK — McIlroy from Northern Ireland, Fitzpatrick from England — go way back. In 2017, McIlroy tagged Fitzpatrick as a player he thought should be getting more attention. Yet even beyond the personal connection, there was something fitting about McIlroy being the one to welcome Fitzpatrick into the majors club.
All week, McIlroy had — both intentionally and unintentionally — positioned himself as the PGA Tour’s face, its conscience.
This week, for the tour and the players supporting it, could have ended up with a LIV player hoisting the trophy. But when a winner was crowned, the tour’s unofficial spokesman was fittingly there to say well done.