Fanfare and fighter jets as controversial LIV Golf launches amid PGA Tour bans
In the words of Ron Burgundy after the fight scene in the first Anchorman film: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
Precisely 30 minutes after the first shots in the opening LIV Golf Invitational Series event were struck, following an actual trumpet fanfare no less, the PGA Tour responded by banning the 17 players in the field who were playing despite having been denied permission.
Among them were six-time major winner and lifetime member Phil Mickelson, former world number one Dustin Johnson and European stars Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, with all but Mickelson having resigned from the Tour already.
And with that, on a day which saw vintage fighter planes circling the first tee for some reason, men’s professional golf descended into open warfare and took another massive stride towards what has long appeared an inevitable court battle.
Before the PGA Tour statement landed, the day had been progressing smoothly for those of a LIV Golf persuasion, with fears of low attendance proving unfounded and, two hours into the broadcast, more than 90,000 watching a live stream of the action on YouTube.
The atmosphere around the first tee could hardly be described as raucous as the star attractions Mickelson and Johnson teed off, although there was a lone cry of “Rip one Phil” and another of “Let’s go DJ”.
There was also the question from one spectator of “Who’s that?” when the third member of the group, Scott Vincent, was announced, with the fact that the Zimbabwean had won his last two events followed by another query.
“Really? On what Tour?”
The names of some of the four-man teams into which the 48 players have been split had seemingly not gone down too well either.
“They’re a joke aren’t they,” said one fan, unimpressed perhaps by names like Torque, Crushers, Cleeks and Smash, with Mickelson the captain of the Hy Flyers.
Mickelson had received the biggest cheer from the crowd as he made his way to the first tee, the location of which at the end of the practice range meant he was spared the need to be ferried to his starting hole by the fleet of electric London black cabs laid on for the occasion.
A famously generous tipper, Mickelson’s absence will not have gone down well with the cab drivers, although one suspects they were being well rewarded for their time.
Just not as well as Mickelson though.
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