Jon Rahm joked he has been brushing up on how things work in the courtroom by watching the hit TV show Suits as golf's civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Series wages on.

The battle between the PGA Tour and the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Series took another twist last week when three defectors went to the courts in a bid to play in the lucrative FedExCup playoffs.

Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford had filed a restraining order to allow them to play this week's tournament, while 11 LIV Golf stars put together an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.

However, a judge ruled ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship that LIV Golf players were not eligible to compete in the playoffs.

Former world number one Rahm conceded he had only fortuitously seen the verdict but was happy with the outcome.

"Well, I can tell you I had zero attention on it. I only found out that it was going on because I walked by a player dining and I saw about 10 really nervous people pacing all around the room," he said ahead of this weekend's BMW Championship.

"I asked and heard what was going on. I was in the room when the judge made a decision known, but only because I was walking by and they told me it was time. So, I was like, 'I'll stay'. 

"I think it could have made things a little bit awkward. They chose to leave the PGA Tour. They chose to go join another tour, knowing the consequences, and then try to come back and get courts and justice in the way. 

"It wouldn't have sat extremely well with me but, at the same time, they're adults. They're free to do as they please to an extent. And that's what they chose to do if they're allowed by a judge. I'm nobody to say otherwise. Would it have been awkward? Possibly. But, I guess we'll never know."

Rahm does not foresee this being the end of LIV players' attempts to play in PGA Tour events and offered a little insight into how he has been brushing up his knowledge on legal proceedings.

"I am confident that the LIV side of things are still going to push strong to keep trying to change some things," he added.

"But I also know that the lawyers and the PGA Tour side are going to keep fighting to keep things the way are going right now. 

"It's not the last thing we're going to hear from them. But I just started watching the show Suits. So, I'm kind of learning now about how what happens in a courtroom."

U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick also weighed in on the discussion, saying the time has come to put the focus back purely on playing golf.

"I'll be honest, I've not been asked much about it myself personally. So, it's just been it's been fine," he said.

"For me, it's just seeing it in the media and stuff. You just get fed up with talking about it.

"In my personal opinion, let's just get on with it now. We just want to play golf and concentrate on what we do. That's purely my take on that."

Tiger Woods was expected to meet a small group of leading golfers on Tuesday amid the ongoing threat posed by LIV Golf to the long-established PGA Tour.

Woods is not competing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but Stats Perform understands the 15-time major champion elected to come to Delaware to meet fellow professionals involved in the BMW Championship.

The 46-year-old is reportedly trying to garner support among PGA Tour counterparts over the battle with the breakaway series for players' allegiances.

Woods has made his feelings over the Saudi-backed LIV Golf clear, and reportedly turned down a high nine-figure fortune to join, but Open champion Cameron Smith looks to be the next big name to defect.

"I disagree with it [the players' decision to join LIV Golf]," Woods said ahead of The Open. "I think that what they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position."

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was set to be available at the BMW Championship to talk informally to any players who have any questions to raise, as has been the case for several months.

It is understood up to two dozen players have sought out Monahan for chats at certain events, but there have been no emergency talks.

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the high profile players who have joined LIV Golf.

Cameron Smith has withdrawn from this week's BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, amid reports he is set to defect to LIV Golf.

The Australian, who claimed his first major at The Open Championship last month at St Andrew's, has pulled out citing discomfort in his hip.

It means Smith, currently number three in the FedEx Cup rankings, will miss out on the final event before the season-concluding Tour Championship at East Lake.

"Unfortunately, Cam will be unable to compete in the BMW Championship this week in Wilmington," agent Bud Martin said. "He has been dealing with some on-and-off hip discomfort for several months and thought it best to rest this week in his pursuit of the FedExCup."

The Brisbane native struggled last week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, where he was handed a two-stroke penalty for playing from the wrong place and, having challenged for the lead at one stage, finished tied for 13th.

Now, he will likely drop further away from the chance to dethrone Scottie Scheffler, particularly if the rumblings about a switch to the breakaway LIV Golf series prove well-founded.

Rory McIlroy considered Tuesday "a good day" for members of the PGA Tour, as he felt the attempts of LIV Golf rebels to enter the FedEx Cup had made the dispute around the breakaway series "personal".

A judge ruled ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship that LIV Golf players were not eligible to compete in the play-offs.

Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford had filed a restraining order to allow them to play this week's tournament, while 11 LIV Golf stars put together an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.

McIlroy, who said he was following the proceedings live on Tuesday, was delighted the trio had not been granted access after abandoning the Tour for the lucrative new Saudi-backed league.

"From my vantage point, common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision," McIlroy said.

"And now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice."

The four-time major winner, who finished third as Cameron Smith – reported to be the next LIV Golf signing – won The Open last month, was asked if the struggle between players on either tour had become "personal".

"Yeah – and it was when that lawsuit was filed last week or whenever it was," McIlroy replied.

"The thing that I would say [is that] I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven't put their names to the suit. Yeah, it's become a little more personal because of that."

And while delighted with the outcome on Tuesday, McIlroy knows there will be plenty more battles ahead.

Explaining his outlook, the Northern Irishman said: "Guys are going to make their own decisions that they feel is best for them, and that's totally fine.

"I don't begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that's your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine.

"But I think where the resentment comes from, from the membership of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences.

"Anyone that's read that PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.

"That's sort of how it played out, and I think everyone that has abided by the rules was... There's such a long way to go – it's like you've birdied the first hole, but you've still got 17 holes to go – but it was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership yesterday."

McIlroy has been prominent in his opposition to LIV Golf, and he revealed on Wednesday he had received an offer from the Premier Golf League, but not from the latest threat to the PGA Tour.

The 33-year-old was therefore asked if he enjoyed his role as an unofficial spokesperson for the PGA Tour.

"Not really," McIlroy replied, but he does feel his game has somehow benefited from his being at the centre of a storm when off the course.

"I don't feel like it's my job to be up here and stick up for the Tour or be a spokesperson," he said.

"It's just sort of the role that I've found myself in, especially coming on the PGA Tour [policy] board this year. It was a great time to agree to do that...

"I've said this to a few people: I feel when I then get myself inside the ropes, it's like no one can get to me, and it's really nice.

"So, it's actually made the golf part of it way more enjoyable. And I sort of appreciate it a little bit more, because of all the other stuff that's going on.

"If anything, it's probably helped my golf, just because I can get out there and I can not think about it and compartmentalise everything and maybe enjoy competing a little bit more – or at least appreciate it a little bit more with everything else that's going on."

Cameron Smith has vowed he will come forward when he has any announcement to make on his future, although the world number two is reported to have already agreed to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Smith is the Open champion and would represent another major coup for the breakaway golf league.

Fellow Australian Cameron Percy indicated Smith would be joining LIV Golf this week, telling RSN Radio that the 28-year-old and Marc Leishman were "gone".

Smith subsequently responded to these claims in a news conference ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Tuesday.

"My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup play-offs," he said. "That's all I'm here for.

"If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy.

"I'm a man of my word, and whenever you guys need to know anything, it will be said by me.

"Like I said, I'm here to play the FedEx Cup play-offs. That's been my focus the last week and a half, that's what I'm here to do. I'm here to win the FedEx Cup play-offs."

However, Wednesday brought an exclusive report from The Telegraph claiming Smith had signed a $100million-plus deal with LIV Golf.

The report says an initial offer of around $100m was made to Smith ahead of The Open, but he is set to be boosted by his new status as a major winner.

An announcement, The Telegraph said, would likely follow the FedEx Cup play-offs, with Smith second in the standings.

The PGA Tour has won their first legal battle against the controversial LIV Golf brand, with a judge ruling on Tuesday that LIV Golf players are not eligible to play in the FedEx Cup starting this week.

Specifically, Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford were the three golfers seeking the temporary restraining order to play at the FedEx St. Jude Championship – but a judge ruled that their cases did not prove they were victims of "irreparable harm" due to their highly paid contracts.

The LIV Golf lawyers argued that the FedEx Cup is about "more than money" – even going as far as calling it "the Super Bowl of golf", and comparing former FedEx Cup winners to all-time greats Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.

They claimed the PGA Tour was attempting to use monopoly powers to stamp out fair competition, to which the PGA lawyers countered with the facts that five of their top-10 most famous players – based on their Player Impact Program – have already jumped ship, and that Gooch, specifically, signed a contract worth significantly more than the $18million awarded to the winner of the FedEx Cup.

LIV Golf were queried about how they could project a 20 per cent market share while also calling the PGA Tour a monopoly, and that being a monopoly is not illegal, only using monopoly powers against another organisation is.

The judge explained that the breakaway golfers would have ample opportunity to play on the alternate tour; that their upfront LIV Golf contracts took into account the possibility that they would not be eligible for the FedEx Cup and/or major championships; and that the inability to win even more money does not constitute "irreparable harm".

Some other interesting tidbits were revealed during proceedings, including a direct contradiction from a prevalent storyline about the LIV Golf contracts.

LIV Golf lawyers claimed that prize money won from tournaments would be "recouped against the LIV contracts" – with a clip emerging immediately afterwards showing an LIV Golf spokesperson specifically saying during a news conference featuring Pat Perez and Brooks Koepka that all prize money would be "in addition to the contracts".

Their lawyers also confirmed that all 48 spots had been filled for next LIV Golf season, and the judge indicated that the larger-scale antitrust trial would be tentatively scheduled for September.

World number one Scottie Scheffler has hit out at a lawsuit being brought against the PGA Tour by several of LIV Golf's leading names. 

With the PGA suspending players who joined the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed circuit, the likes of Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are among 11 players to back a legal attempt to reverse those measures ahead of the FedEx Cup Playoffs beginning on Thursday.

While reports suggest only three LIV players – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – are seeking re-entry to the event, the PGA has accused them of trying "to have their cake and eat it" by attempting to feature at their events.

And Scheffler, who has been a prominent defender of the PGA Tour amid several high-profile players signing up for the LIV circuit, has little sympathy for those fighting suspension.

"I'm definitely curious to see what's going to happen," the 2022 Masters victor told a news conference on Tuesday.

"It's one of those deals where those guys kind of made their decision to go join another tour.

"They broke the rules and regulations of our tour and now they're trying to sue us, which is definitely a bit frustrating.

"I heard that was going to happen and I know some guys aren't surprised to see it, but I definitely am surprised to see some guys now suing us.

"If they win, come out here and play, I mean, that's something that's up to the courts. I can't control what's going to happen in a court case. 

"[I'm] definitely interested, but at the end of the day it has no effect on my preparation for the week."

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan delivered a stern and scathing response to an antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday by 11 suspended players currently competing in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league.

The lawsuit, which includes Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau among the most prominent plaintiffs, was filed just over a week before the FedEx Cup’s first playoff event, the St Jude Championship.

Six LIV players part of the lawsuit – Taylor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Matt Jones, Hudson Swafford, Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz – would be eligible for the playoffs if not banned by the PGA for joining the rival league. Gooch, Jones and Swafford have additionally filed a temporary restraining order to allow them to compete in the St Jude tournament.

The next LIV event is not scheduled to begin until September 2 at The International outside of Boston. 

"We have been preparing to protect our membership and contest this latest attempt to disrupt our Tour, and you should be confident in the legal merits of our position," said Monahan in a memo to PGA players.

"Fundamentally, these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – have walked away from the Tour and now want back in. With the Saudi Golf League now on hiatus, they're trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing.

"It's an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote themselves and freeride on your benefits and efforts. To allow re-entry into our events compromises the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organisation, our players, our partners and our fans. 

"Let me be clear: we will continue to defend the members who abide by the regulations written by and for the players."

The suit, filed in San Francisco’s U.S. District Court, also contends that the PGA suspended Mickelson in March for recruiting Tour members to join the Saudi league. The six-time major winner was later denied reinstatement after participating in the inaugural LIV event near London in June.

The PGA has prohibited players competing in LIV events held the same week as a Tour-sponsored tournament without a release, and will not grant releases for LIV competitions held in North America.

LIV members, a list which also includes such top golfers as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, remain eligible for The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship, as the four majors are not run by the PGA.

Bryson DeChambeau says he is "not worried" about the PGA Tour's decision to indefinitely ban players who have defected to the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The sport is embroiled in a battle between the PGA Tour and the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf, with 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau one of those who has chosen to break away.

Henrik Stenson also chose to defect and was subsequently stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy before he won the third LIV event in New Jersey last week, while other players such as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia have joined too.

It has since been reported that Tiger Woods was offered up to $800million to join LIV Golf, though he chose to reject the money in order to stay with the PGA Tour.

The Wall Street Journal have reported that Mickelson and DeChambeau, as well as a number of other defectors, are planning to sue the PGA Tour over their suspensions.

But DeChambeau was not concerned about this development and was instead enthused by what LIV Golf could do for players financially, telling Fox News: "It doesn't make sense [the ban].

"I'm not worried about that. I think it will get figured out. I personally know that it will get figured out, whether it's legally or whether they come to the table and work out terms. I definitely think it will all wash itself out in the future, pretty shortly.

"Any time anyone invests over a billion dollars into the game of golf, how is that not going to grow the game and how is that not going to provide more opportunities?

"This is our livelihoods and it was a great economic opportunity for golfers to make a lot of money. That's why we grew up playing golf - also for the history, to go and win majors, PGA Tour events and now I want to win LIV events.

"You can see the passion and competitive aspect of this environment out here and we all want to win every single week."

Davis Love III told LIV Golf defectors "you can be Tiger Woods or you can be banned from the game" and can foresee a situation where "fed up" players boycott the big PGA Tour events to protect their interests.

Golf is engulfed in a war between those remaining loyal to the sport's flagship tour and those who have opted for the riches of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Series.

Last week saw the third LIV event held in New Jersey, which was won by Henrik Stenson after he had been stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy over his decision to sign up.

Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia are among the notable names to have also jumped ship, while Tiger Woods is said to have turned down $800million to remain loyal to the PGA Tour.

Love III, this year's US Presidents Cup captain and a two-time Ryder Cup skipper, said earlier this week players could look to boycott the majors if LIV players are continued to allow to play.

He sought to clarify those comments at a news conference and warned LIV players there should be consequences for their decisions.

He said: "I told the players that I've talked to that have gone or thinking about going, 'it's your decision, you know, and you do what's right for you, but understand consequences'. 

"I tried to sound like my dad and I probably wasn't very good at it. I didn't argue. I said, 'look, you can do this or you can do this. You can be Tiger Woods or you can be banned from the game, take your pick. But understanding the consequences, you signed up for these rules'.

"And I keep using it kind of as a joke, but I'm wearing shorts today, but I can't wear shorts on Thursday, that's a rule. I had to commit by last Friday or I don't get to play this week. I have to play 15 tournaments or I don't get to vote and I don't get my retirement money. You have rules that you have to adhere to. 

"Jay [Monahan] has been saying it for a year and they either understood it, some of them understood that, some of them said it's not going to happen, and some of them just flat out lied, I'm not doing this, I'm not doing that. 

"And you hear it, the talking points or the interviews, they're spinning their decision because they know they've turned their backs on their friends and they know they're taking the money and they know it's not the right thing to do. 

"But it is their decision and they can do that, they just can't come back and play The Players Championship. That's just not fair. If I grind it out, make the 125 and get in The Players Championship, I don't want those guys, that being the only PGA Tour event they play that year, that's not right."

 

Love III, the 1997 US PGA Championship victor, concedes he is surprised by the number of players turning their backs on the Tour.

He also suggested how PGA regulars may respond if LIV players attempt to take their ambition to play on both tours to the courts.

"Nobody saw the extent of LIV coming. It's hard to not be reactionary to something that when you're blindsided, you are being reactionary," he added.

"I told Jay a year ago, and you can ask him, I said, 'don't worry about it, it's not going to happen'. I was completely dead wrong. Six months ago I told my own tournament, 'oh, don't worry about it, not going to happen. Mickelson's going down, but nobody else will jump ship'. 

"So, I was wrong. I don't know what's going to happen from here on out, but I know it's going to be a fight and the players are getting more and more unified against it. 

"Now, some guys said that they don't like the new schedule and some guys don't like the old schedule. I might not like the fall schedule right now, but it's going to work out because I'm on board with whatever the Tour wants to do. 

"It will work out because I know the staff doesn't work for Jay exclusively, they work for the players and so does Jay.

"The whole situation is unfortunate. I didn't try to single out the U.S. Open as the players striking or threatening not to play. I was saying that if the LIV guys sue and are allowed to play on the PGA Tour, that the players are enough fed up with it, we understand that we make the rules on the PGA Tour and the commissioner's enforcing our rules and we don't want those guys playing, come and cherry-picking our tournaments, that we hold all the cards, not Jay or not Seth Waugh or Mike Whan. 

"They don't hold all the cards, we hold all the cards. If we say to the FTC and to Washington, no, we support the rules, we don't want those guys playing, we don't care what the courts say, our only option really, the nuclear option is to say, well, fine, if they have to play in our events, we just won't play. I think the Tour players, the Max Homas and Rory McIlroys have done a good job. 

"I think the undercurrent of guys are getting more and more fed up with it, that these guys are threatening our way of life, they're trying to take money out of our pockets and cherry-pick our best tournaments. The majors have to make their own decisions. I loved what Martin Slumbers said, I think they're all going in the right direction, but the PGA Tour players, we support the PGA Tour and we support the rules and we need to stand up for them."

Tiger Woods was offered a package worth between $700million and $800m to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to the competition's chief executive Greg Norman.

Woods, a 15-time major winner, has been an advocate for the PGA Tour, which has been embroiled in a tussle with the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway league.

LIV Golf held its latest event last weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, with Henrik Stenson – who was removed as Ryder Cup captain after deciding to join the new tour – claiming victory in his first outing.

Norman previously said that Woods had been offered a "high nine digits" sum to join LIV Golf, which has so far been unable to attract many of the world's best, though has snagged big names such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.

In an interview with Fox News with Tucker Carlson that was broadcast on Monday in the United States, Norman confirmed that Woods had been offered in the region of $700m to $800m.

"That number was out there before I became CEO. So that number has been out there, yes," Norman said.

"And, look, Tiger is a needle-mover and of course you have to look at the best of the best.

"So they had originally approached Tiger before I became CEO. So, yes, that number was somewhere in that neighbourhood."

 

Two-time major winner Norman has become a controversial figure within the sport, and was barred from attending the Celebration of Champions or the Champions' Dinner prior to The 150th Open Championship at St Andrews last month.

Woods failed to make the cut at that tournament, but backed the decision to disinvite Norman from the celebrations, saying: "Greg has done some things that I don't think are in the best interest of our game, and we're coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it's the right thing."

Yet the Australian is unperturbed by any possible damage to his reputation.

"I really don't care," said Norman, who claimed he is unaware why LIV Golf has caused such uproar.

"I just love the game so much and I want to grow the game of golf and we at LIV see that opportunity not just for the men but for the women."

Henrik Stenson could not resist taking a dig at his Ryder Cup predicament after winning his debut event on the breakaway golf tour at LIV Golf Bedminster, saying "I guess we can agree I played like a captain".

Stenson – who was sensationally stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy after announcing he would leave the PGA Tour – was a wire-to-wire winner in the 54-hole event, shooting a seven-under 64 in his opening round, before following it with a pair of 69s.

He finished two strokes ahead of Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson at nine under, with Carlos Ortiz (eight under) and Patrick Reed (seven under) rounding out the top-five, and a further three-stroke buffer to sixth.

Speaking immediately after sinking his winning putt, Stenson said it was pleasing to perform so well after such a hectic couple of weeks, but only after taking a shot at those in charge of his Ryder Cup ban.

"Yeah, I guess we can agree I played like a captain," he said, before acknowledging Ian Poulter is the captain of his Majesticks GC team.

"It's been a busy 10 days, and I'm extremely proud that I managed to focus as well as I did. I was a little wobbly coming home here – I haven't finished the deal in a couple of years with any wins – so it's always a little added pressure when you're up in contention, but I did well."

For the win, Stenson pocketed a $4.375million cheque, as well as a $375,000 bonus for his team finishing in second-place, only trailing Dustin Johnson's 4 Aces GC, which included Pat Perez at five over.

Stenson is understood to have accepted a signing-on fee to join LIV Golf in the region of $50 million, according to ESPN's report.

Henrik Stenson was victorious at the LIV Golf Bedminster tournament on Sunday, his debut event on the controversial breakaway tour.

Sweden's former Open champion completed his 54 holes on 11 under par, putting him two clear of Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff.

Stenson was stripped of his status as Europe's Ryder Cup captain after it was confirmed he was among the newest recruits to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf circuit.

He entered the third and final round with a three-stroke lead over Johnson, and posted three birdies and one bogey for a two-under 69 to get the job done.

Johnson, who was three under on Sunday, had to settle for matching the overall score of Wolff who put together the equal-best round of the tournament with his seven-under 64, finishing at nine under for the weekend.

Carlos Ortiz was alone in fourth at eight under, and Patrick Reed had sole possession of fifth at seven under.

With Johnson and Reed both collecting top-five finishes, and Talor Gooch being part of the five-man group at four under, their 4 Aces GC – along with fourth member Pat Perez (five over) – comfortably won the team competition, eight strokes clear of Stenson's Majesticks GC.

Brooks Koepka finished 11th at three under, alongside Martin Kaymer, while Ian Poulter was a shot back, and Charl Schwartzel snuck into the top 20 at even par.

It was a tournament to forget for Bryson DeChambeau (five over) and Phil Mickelson (six over), although Mickelson did close his weekend with his best round, shooting even par.

Henrik Stenson carded a two-under-par 69 to retain his lead after the second round of LIV Golf Bedminster, his first event on the controversial tour.

The Swede – stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy over his defection from the DP World Tour – showed steely focus on the fairways on Saturday at Trump National Golf Club.

The 2016 Open Championship winner moved clear of first-round co-leader Patrick Reed to top the standings outright at nine under, rallying after a double bogey on his third hole.

Stenson said: "I was hanging in there. I didn't feel I had my best stuff today, certainly a lot less than we played with yesterday."

Former Masters winner Reed slipped to a tie for third with a two-over 73, but he nevertheless retained a share of the lead in the team standings. Reed's 4 Aces GC team-mate Dustin Johnson moved second in the individual standings with a 69 to sit three shots off the lead at six under.

The 4 Aces advantage was cemented by a super round from Talor Gooch, who carded a best-of-the-day 64 to join Reed on five under through 36 holes, with Carlos Ortiz on the same mark.

It proved a miserable day at the office for Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as they posted 73 and 74 respectively, with DeChambeau carding six bogeys in his round. He sits tied for 28th, with Mickelson in a share of 40th place on six over – a full 15 shots behind Stenson.

Phil Mickelson says he was not distracted by being heckled before teeing off in the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster on Friday.

Mickelson stepped back from the tee after a spectator shouted "Do it for the Saudi Royal Family" at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

The six-time major champion was one of the highest profile players to sign a hugely lucrative deal with the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf series, leading to him being suspended from the PGA Tour.

Mickelson was way down the leaderboard in a tie for 43rd after shooting a four-over 75 in the opening round of the third LIV Golf event in New Jersey, where debutant Henrik Stenson shares the lead with Patrick Reed on seven under.

The 52-year-old insisted he was not affected by the words of a vocal spectator before he took his first shot.

When asked if he was affected by being heckled, Mickelson said: "No. I had a really good day. The people here have always been great and treated me well.

"I had a really good day with the fans and with Henrik playing well, there was a lot of good things going on. I'm just a little frustrated with my game to be honest.

He added: "I'm just frustrated because I expect more of myself, so I'm gonna work until I get it fixed."

Asked again about the heckler, he replied: "I've always enjoyed playing in this area and we had a great day thereafter, I thought it was a good day all around, so I didn't really think much of it."

Stenson made a great start to his first LIV Golf event and was happy to be playing again after losing the European Ryder Cup captaincy due to his defection.

The Swede said: "It's nice to be out there playing golf, and yeah, of course it’s been a busy couple of weeks and not the most fun, but we keep our head down and focus on the golf."

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