Jon Rahm was the star of the show on Friday at the CJ Cup, shooting a nine-under 62 to jump all the way up into a share for first place at 11 under with Kurt Kitayama.

Rahm's 62 came after an opening 69, raising his birdie count from six to 10, while cutting his bogeys from four to one as he figured out the Congaree Golf Club course.

Kitayama has been a much steadier presence this week, posting rounds of 66 and 65, with his second round highlighted by an impressive eagle on the par-five 12th hole.

Those two players lead the pack by one stroke, with Australia's Cam Davis and America's Aaron Wise tied for third at 10 under with back-to-back 66s.

Rory McIlroy is alone in fifth at nine under after following a front-nine score of 37 with an impressive 30 on the back-nine, and he is two strokes clear of a logjam tied for sixth at seven under.

The group includes young phenom Tom Kim, as well as former major champion Shane Lowry and England's Tyrrell Hatton, while Masters champion Danny Willett is a further shot back at six under.

Presidents Cup representatives Max Homa and Im Sung-jae enter the weekend six strokes off the pace at five under, with former world number one Jason Day at four under and current world number one Scottie Scheffler at three under.

Being an invitational event with no cut, Collin Morikawa (three under), Rickie Fowler (two under), Justin Thomas (one under) and Hideki Matsuyama (even par) will all get to stick around and play two more rounds.

The PGA Tour has filed a federal civil lawsuit against LIV Golf's financial backers, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and governor Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, per filings in Manhattan.

The complaint, filed under seal in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, is the latest move in the bitter war between golf's leading organisation and its breakaway opponent.

It follows the PGA Tour filing a counter-suit against LIV Golf last month, levelling accusations of interference in player contracts.

More than 30 players have been suspended from competing on the tour since their defection, while US players have been excluded from Ryder Cup consideration.

A number of players previously filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, though several – including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson – have been asked to be removed from that action.

Al-Rumayyan is also the chairman of Premier League outfit Newcastle United and heads up Saudi-owned petroleum company Saudi Aramco.

Defending CJ Cup champion Rory McIlroy started strong to be one shot behind joint leaders Gary Woodland and Trey Mullinax after the opening day at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina.

The Northern Irishman is tied with six players at five-under after carding opening rounds of 66, including recent Shriners Children's Open winner Tom Kim.

McIlroy pieced together birdies on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, but his round leveled out, finishing bogey-free.

Woodland was one of the pre-tournament favourites and he impressed early, with three straight birdies to open his round.

The American dropped three bogeys to slow his progress, but sunk a 21-foot birdie putt on the par-four 18th to finish his round with nine birdies and a share of the lead.

Co-leader Mullinax birdied four of his first six holes and six of his first 11, highlighted by a 23-foot birdie putt on the 11th.

Kim, who is only 20-years-old, stormed up the leaderboard late with three birdies in his final six holes, including rolling in a 28-foot birdie on the 16th although he slipped from the lead with a bogey on the 18th.

McIlroy and Kim are joined by Cam Davis, Kurt Kitayama, Aaron Wise and Wyndham Clark in carding opening day rounds of five-under-par.

Norwegian Viktor Hovland and American Tyrrell Hatton headline the following six-member group at four-under.

Two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas is back at three-under, while former world number one pair Jon Rahm and Jason Day are at two-under. Scottie Scheffler finished with an even round.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth had a poor round that included a double bogey on the sixth and four bogeys to be four-over-par.

Rory McIlroy has hit back at Phil Mickelson by claiming the American's verdict that the PGA Tour is "trending downwards" is illogical.

Northern Irishman McIlroy has been one of the most prominent opponents of the LIV Golf breakaway tour, which made Mickelson an early flagship signing.

Mickelson said in Jeddah last week: "I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

McIlroy has the likes of Tiger Woods in his corner, staying true to the tour that has for many years provided their livelihood.

"I think the people that have decided to stay here and play these tournaments, they or we haven't done anything differently than what we've always done. We're sticking to the system that has traditionally been there," McIlroy said.

"The guys that have gone over to LIV are the ones that have made the disruption they're the ones you have put the golf world in flux right now.

"For them to be talking the way they are, it's bold and there's a ton of propaganda being used. But I certainly don't see the PGA Tour trending downwards.

"Ninety-five per cent of the talent is here. You've people like Tom Kim coming through and that's the future of our game.

"I don't agree with what Phil said last week. I understand why he said it, because of the position he is in, but I don't think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said."

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour

McIlroy, competing this week at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, has a chance to go back to the top of the world rankings, if he has a stellar week and Scottie Scheffler struggles.

With no points currently available at LIV events, it has made the route back to number one perhaps less arduous than it might have been for McIlroy.

McIlroy said: "If I get back to number one this week, it's like my ninth time getting back.

"It's like a heavyweight boxer losing a world title, and it's the journey of getting it back. That's the journey I've been on over the last 12 months."

Across his previous eight stints at number one, McIlroy has spent 106 weeks atop the rankings.

He ardently wants top spot again but says the fact of being number one would still have him wanting more.

"I got to number one in the world [for the first time] after I won the Honda Classic in 2012, and it'd been a goal of mine for maybe six months up until that point," McIlroy said. "I ended up getting there after the Honda, but I remember waking up the next morning and being like, 'Is this it?'.

"You work towards the goal for so long but don't feel any different after having achieved it, so it's a matter of having to reframe your goals and re-framing what success looks like.

"I think that's one of the great things about this game. No matter what you've achieved or what success you've had, you always want to do something else. You've got to maybe work harder to stay there."

The PGA Tour has announced four more "elevated" events for the new season that will see increased prize money and fields guaranteed to feature the world's best players.

The Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship will now all have $20million (£17.8m) prize purses meaning there are now 17 elevated events throughout the course of the current season.

The other 13 elevated events are comprised of the four majors, the Players Championship, the three FedEx Cup Playoff events, the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, the WGC Match Play and the Tournament of Champions.

The idea of elevated events was initially developed in August in collaboration with numerous high-ranking golfers after several high-profile PGA tour golfers left to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

The invitational series offers lucrative signing bonuses that vastly outweigh potential PGA tour prize money winnings and has secured the services of current Open champion Cameron Smith as well as two-time major champion, Dustin Johnson.

But it is hoped these elevated events, which the PGA Tour's top stars are committed to playing, will dissuade more players from leaving in the future and ensure the best players play together more frequently.

The four newly announced elevated events are only for 2023; the expectation being that other events will be given elevated status in the coming seasons. 

There is also potential for events in Europe on the DP World Tour to be given elevated status as part of the "strategic alliance" with the PGA Tour. 

The Scottish Open, which is co-sanctioned by both tours, could well be one event given elevated status as part of this alliance in future seasons.

Keegan Bradley claimed his first win since 2018 as he edged out Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam at the Zozo Championship.

Bradley was left fighting back tears after rolling in the winning putt, which saw him end a wait that stretched back to the BMW Championship over four years ago.

The 2011 US PGA champion prevailed thanks to a two-under 68, overcoming a wobble in which he carded two bogeys in three holes between the 14th and 16th.

It took him to 15 under par and proved enough to beat overnight leader Fowler, who could only manage a level par 70.

Fowler has not won on the PGA Tour since 2019. Putnam, whose last win came a month before Bradley's in August 2018, also finished one stroke back after a 68.

Emiliano Grillo's 64 was the second-best score of the day behind Lucas Herbert's 63 and took him to 13 under and outright fourth.

Viktor Hovland, Hayden Buckley and Sahith Theegala finished in a three-way tie for fifth.

Rickie Fowler heads into the final round of the Zozo Championship with a one-stroke lead as he seeks to end his long wait for a 10th professional title.

Fowler has not tasted victory since his win at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix in 2019.

But he is tantalisingly close to experiencing the winning feeling once more after carding a four-under 66 in Chiba.

That took him to 14 under, with Keegan Bradley his closest challenger at 13 under and Andrew Putnam one stroke further back.

Viktor Hovland carded a 64 to move to 11 under, his six-under effort matched by Maverick McNealy, Cameron Champ and Hayden Buckley, who are all 10 under.

Sahith Theegala enjoyed the best round of the day, producing a 63 to move into contention at nine under.

"It’s been a while since I’ve been in this situation,” said Fowler.

"There hasn’t been much the last few years. Obviously remember being in the situations before. It’ll be tough tomorrow but also fun, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to have to play well and continue doing what I’ve been doing the last three days.

"There’s plenty of guys within a few shots, I’m out front, in control, but that can change if I don’t execute like I have been."

Rickie Fowler is hoping to put on a show over the weekend at the Zozo Championship after moving into a share of the lead.

The American shot a blemish-free 63 at the Narashino Country Club on Friday to sit level with Andrew Putnam on 10 under. Putnam went one better than Fowler with a 62.

Keegan Bradley, one stroke back, provides the closest competition to the leading pair while first-round leader Brendan Steele's 73 saw him fall seven shots off the pace.

Fowler, who missed the cut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last time out, is having a ball in Japan and looking forward to wowing the crowd in pursuit of a sixth PGA Tour title.

"I definitely enjoy myself over here and the people are awesome. It is really cool to play in front of the Japanese fans," he said.

"I'm hoping we can give them more good golf over the weekend.

"I'm very happy with where we're at. Obviously didn't have the week we wanted last week, drove it poorly, but with some of the changes we've made and to have the finish that we did at Napa [T6 at the Fortinet Championship] and kind of seeing a lot of good things, I'm definitely happy about it and excited to be here and off to a good start."

John Huh's 61 was the best round of the day and saw him climb to eight under, one stroke ahead of Japanese home hope Keita Nakajima.

Headline act and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is not likely to figure in the battle for silverware but did move back to even par with a 69.

Phil Mickelson says he has on the "winning side" with LIV Golf and believes the PGA Tour is "trending downwards."

Mickelson defected from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed breakaway series on a hugely lucrative contract in June.

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour to sign up for LIV Golf.

As he prepares to tee off in Jeddah on Friday, six-time major winner Mickelson is in no doubt he made the right decision.

He said: "Golf is very lucky to have the PIF [Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia] invest in the game… being influxed with billions of dollars.

"Now the US and the UK are not favourable to this, but everywhere else in the world, LIV Golf is loved. It is very negatively viewed currently [in the US and UK], but that has been changing and evolving already and in a few years LIV will be not only accepted but appreciated, because of the involvement and the influx of capital and what it is doing."

He added: "I've spoken with people who have had dealings that have not been positive with the [PGA] Tour and have had nothing but positive experiences with LIV.

"For a long, long time, my 30 years on the PGA Tour, pretty much all the best players played on the PGA Tour. That will never be the case again.

"I think going forward you have to pick the side you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

Sergio Garcia admits it was "a hard decision" to eschew next year's Ryder Cup, stating he does not feel as if he would be "very welcome" amid the bitter PGA Tour-LIV Golf Invitational Series split.

The Spaniard, a six-time tournament winner, will not represent Team Europe next year at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Italy after failing to enter his name by last Friday's deadline.

While Team USA-eligible defectors are barred from inclusion following PGA Tour membership suspension, no call has been made on their opponents.

But even if he was to get a sponsor's invite, Garcia says he will not feature next year, acknowledging he is sad to feel ostracised amid the fallout of his defection to the Saudi-backed tour.

"It was a hard decision," he said. "But unfortunately, it doesn't feel like I'm very welcome there, so I don't want to be a bother to anyone.

"I've always said I love the Ryder Cup too much. I obviously would love to keep being a part of it. [But] when I see that so many people are against [me playing], if the team is better without me, I'd rather be out of it.

"There's obviously several guys who feel strongly that way. The [DP World] Tour is of that same thought. So I don't want to be something that might hurt the team.

"Obviously it's sad for me, how much I love the Ryder Cup and everything I've been able to do with Europe. That's the way they want it. I'm just helping out."

Brendan Steele holds a one-shot lead after finishing his first round with a flourish at the Zozo Championship.

Steele started with a six-under 64 to lead the way at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday.

The American made a first birdie at the second hole and came alive after the turn, making another six gains as his only blemish came with a bogey at 14.

Steele holed his approach shot at the par-four 17th and another birdie at the last put in out on his own at the top of leaderboard in Chiba, Japan.

The 39-year-old has not won a PGA Tour event since retaining his Safeway Open title five years ago.

Adam Schenk is second place following a bogey-free 65, with fellow Americans Sam Ryder, Matthew NeSmith and Keegan Bradley a further stroke back.

Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele are nicely poised just three shots off the lead along with Kazuki Higa, Maverick McNealy and Mito Pereira.

It was not a good day for defending champion Hideki Matsuyama on home soil, as he is down in 41st after a one-over 71.

Tom Kim took advantage of a disastrous final hole from Patrick Cantlay to secure the Shriners Children's Open title on Sunday with an overall score of 24 under.

Kim, 20, became the first player since Tiger Woods to win two PGA Tour events before their 21st birthday, and he did it after coming into Sunday's final round tied for the lead with Cantlay.

The two players atop the leaderboard exchanged the lead multiple times, with Cantlay birdieing the opening hole, before Kim closed out his front-nine with back-to-back birdies to make the turn with a two-stroke advantage.

Cantlay evened things up with back-to-back birdies of his own on 11 and 12, before Kim banked another pair of birdies on 13 and 14, only for Cantlay to level the playing field with two more on 15 and 16.

Heading onto the 72nd and final hole of the week tied at 24 under, Cantlay teed off first and put it into the coarse bushes off the side of the fairway. 

Instead of declaring it unplayable and taking a drop, he opted to try and play his way out, resulting in a botched first shot that traveled less than a yard, before putting his next shot in the water in a catastrophic meltdown.

Kim made no such mistake off the tee, finding the centre of the fairway before approaching safely onto the green and two-putting for the win, while Cantlay needed to sink a 36-foot putt for triple-bogey, tying for second at 21 under.

Speaking after the win, Kim highlighted his mistake-free play as the key to victory.

"I played really solid this week – I had no bogeys for 72 holes," he said. "I think I have to give big credit to Joe [Skovron], my caddy, he really kept me in it and we had a really good game-plan the week, and it paid off.

"I got very lucky on the 18th, I'm not going to lie. Patrick played awesome, and it was an honour to battle with him, and to come out on top, I feel very fortunate."

When asked if he was surprised by his early success on the PGA Tour, he said he is just enjoying the ride.

"I've worked really hard, and my team has worked really hard to get to this point," he said. "I'm just really grateful, and I'm very fortunate to have an opportunity like this. I'm having fun playing on the PGA Tour, it's awesome."

Finishing tied with Cantlay for second place at 21 under was Matthew NeSmith, and first-round leader Tom Hoge ended the week with some momentum as he posted a seven-under Sunday to shoot his way into a tie for fourth at 20 under with Mito Pereira and Kim Seong-hyeon.

Im Sung-jae was alone in seventh at 19 under, and Jason Day tied with Kim Si-woo for eighth, giving South Korea four of the top-10.

Patrick Cantlay carded a joint course record and career low 60 to move to grab a share of the lead with Tom Kim at the Shriners Children's Open with one day to go.

Cantlay, who had shot back-to-back 67s, tied the course record on the third day at Las Vegas' TPC at Summerlin with 11 birdies in his 11-under-par round.

The American world number four just fell shy of the elusive 59, missing with his birdie putt from just under 25 feet on the 18th hole.

Cantlay's 60 was his first on tour as a professional, having achieved the feat in 2011 as a 19-year-old amateur at the Travelers Championship.

Kim and Cantlay are three strokes clear on the leaderboard at 19-under overall, with halfway leader Mito Pereira back with Matthew NeSmith on 16 under.

The South Korean managed six birdies on the back nine to score an impressive nine-under-par 62 on Saturday.

Kim landed his approach on the 18th two feet from the hole to close out his round with birdie and earn the joint lead.

Pereira could only manage four birdies to lose his grip on the lead, while NeSmith had a strong eight-under round fueled by three birdies on the final four holes.

South Korean pair Im Sung-jae and Kim Seong-hyeon are next best on the leaderboard at 15 under.

Behind them is a group of five tied at 14 under, including Kim Si-woo and Aaron Rai, who carded a nine-under 62 on Saturday, with four birdies on his final five holes.

Jon Rahm wishes the LIV Golf International Series defectors could play at the Ryder Cup, though he conceded "it does not look good" for the rebels' hopes.

The controversial Saudi-backed breakaway league continues to battle for world ranking points for its defectors, with the LIV Golf players also indefinitely banned from featuring on the PGA Tour.

Those bans mean the United States golfers that defected will not be able to compete at the Ryder Cup in Rome next September, while European players are awaiting a hearing in February on the sanctions.

A positive outcome for the Europeans who play on the LIV Golf circuit would see the DP World Tour unable to sanction the rebels, with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sam Horsfield hoping to feature in Italy.

While Rahm has opposed the breakaway league, alongside likely Team Europe colleague Rory McIlroy, he expressed his disappointment that the best players may not be present at the Ryder Cup.

"The Ryder Cup is not the PGA Tour and European Tour against LIV – it's Europe versus the US, period," Rahm said.

"The best of each against the other, and for me the Ryder Cup is above all. I wish they could play but it doesn't look good."

Recent reports suggest Sergio Garcia has ruled himself out of Ryder Cup contention regardless of the hearing result.

The Spaniard failed to submit an entry for the Mallorca Open later in the month, meaning he will not meet the appearance requirements to retain his membership.

"It is a complicated situation for Sergio," Rahm added. "I understand he decided not to play because the last time he played a tournament on the European circuit he was not received very well, although I imagine it would be different in Mallorca.

"In any case, there are still days left and you can still sign up."

Mito Pereira tied for Friday's round of the day to shoot his way to the top of the leaderboard after two rounds at the Shriners Children's Open.

Chile's Pereira, who burst onto the scene last season when he led until the final hole at the PGA Championship, shot an eight-under 63 to move to 12 under through 36 holes at TPC Summerlin, posting nine birdies and one bogey.

The only other player to shoot better than 65 on Friday was Robby Shelton, who also enjoyed an eight-under round to climb to outright second at 11 under, birdieing his last hole of the day to elevate himself from the group at 10 under.

Tied for third at 10 under is the trio of Maverick McNealy, and South Korea's representatives at last month's Presidents Cup Tom Kim and Kim Si-woo.

Fellow International team member Cam Davis of Australia is at nine under, tied for sixth with Kevin Streelman and Chad Ramey, while some of the tournament favourites are one further back.

Max Homa and Patrick Cantlay were viewed as the best chances before the event, and they are within striking distance four shots off the pace at eight under, with both shooting back-to-back 67s.

After a strong first day, Im Sung-jae shot a 70 to lose some momentum and head into the weekend at seven under, where he is joined by first-round leader Tom Hoge, who backed up his opening 63 with a one-over 72.

Needing a score of four under to make the cut, rising Canadian Taylor Pendrith and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo snuck in right on the number, while America's Paul Hahn, Scotland's Russell Knox and Ireland's Seamus Power missed out by one.

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