Time for LIV Golf chat to stop and US Open to get its proper place

Let’s call a LIV Golf truce. Just for the next four days because, quite frankly, the 122nd US Open deserves to take place at The Country Club at Brookline without the level of background noise that has been evident around the game’s breakaway series in the build up to the season’s third major.

Yes, of course, Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed project remains the biggest talking point in the game and isn’t going to go away just because some people are vehemently against it, but right now isn’t the time for it to be commanding the spotlight.

No matter what happens in the game going forward, the majors are always going to be the pinnacle and that’s why the US Open - the 150th Open, too, when it comes around at St Andrews in a few weeks’ time - deserves the full attention of everyone who feels passionate about the game for the rest of the week.

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For starters, it’s a mouth-watering venue. Formed in 1894, The Country Club is one of the five founding members of the USGA, the organisation that runs the US Open and now has Mike Whan, the LPGA’s former commissioner, at its helm.

Phil Mickelson gives the fans a thumbs up during a practice round prior to the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

This is the fourth time that the Massachusetts venue has hosted the tournament, having first done so back in 1913, when Francis Quimet, an amateur who had grown up across the street from the course and had caddied there, famously pulled off a Cinderella story.

Its second visit in 1963 resulted in American professional Julius Boros topping the leaderboard before Curtis Strange made it a hat-trick of home wins for the venue’s most recent US Open chapter in 1988.

It might be worth noting that all those previous tournaments were decided in play-offs, though, if history does repeat itself, the event is now decided by a two-hole shoot-out as opposed to an additional 18 holes on the following day.

For many, Brookline, of course, is remembered more because of the 1999 Ryder Cup than anything that has happened in US Opens. Bedlam broke out when Justin Leonard holed a monster putt on the 17th green in the singles as the Americans, led by Ben Crenshaw, came from 10-6 down to snatch victory.

It turned into a graveyard for the Europeans that week and, more than 20 years on, it’s a new generation, led by defending champion Jon Rahm and 2011 winner Rory McIlroy, bidding to create a happier narrative.

They say this event is the ultimate test among those four majors and Rahm successfully ticked every single box at Torrey Pines 12 months ago. If the Spaniard plays as well as he spoke earlier in the week about lots of things, a rare title repeat in this event could be on the cards.

Justin Thomas, winner of last month’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, will be quietly confident about being in the major mix again, but could this be the week when McIlroy, having claimed the most recent of his four majors in 2014, gets kickstarted in the events that, by a country mile, matter the most?If he is successful in seamlessly transporting his game from a Canadian Open win last weekend into this assignment, then ‘yes’ is the answer, though, at the same time, the Northern Irishman has extra pressure to overcome on the game’s biggest stages due to having hit a drought in them.

Though quiet so far this season, you can never discount Open champion Collin Morikawa for major assignments these days and, if you are looking for a darkhorse, keep an eye on Matt Fitzpatrick. The Englishman won the US Amateur on this course in 2013 and is now bidding to join Jack Nicklaus as the only player to add a US Open at the same venue.

Three-time winner Tiger Woods is sitting his one out, but Phil Mickelson is back in the nick of time to try again to complete a career grand slam. How ironic would that be right now? And, based on some of the recent madness in the golf world, don’t necessarily discount that possibility.

Disappointingly, there’s only one Scot in the field, but, nonetheless, what a thrill for Edinburgh-born Sean Jacklin to be making his major debut in an event won by his dad, Tony, back in 1970.

Let the golf begin.

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