The third major championship of the season takes place this week, with the US Open kicking off on Thursday. We take a look at some of the major talking points ahead of the event at the Country Club in Brookline, Boston.

How long will a shadow cast LIV Golf?

He is the biggest problem in golf right now. Naturally, he dominated this week’s pre-event press briefings. Justin Thomas called it “sad”. Phil Mickelson did his best to deflect and spread. Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm spoke eloquently as usual, each fiercely defending the PGA Tour. Brooks Koepka was, some would say rather ominously, visibly chippy.

Predictably, LIV Golf was the hot topic at Brookline Country Club, in what marks the first tournament since the launch of the Saudi-backed Invitational Series last week. Charl Schwartzel walked away as the inaugural winner of LIV on Saturday, pocketing $4.75 million in the process – $2.5 million more than the major championship bids this week.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid the game’s controversial new arrival right now. So, will there be any more player announcements this week? And how will PGA Tour loyalists mingle with LIV’s sidekicks on the pitch in Boston? Unfortunately, these talking points might overshadow everything else for the majority.

Crowds watch Rory McIlroy during a practice round at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.  APE

Will the Boston crowd react or pay attention?

Still loud, the Boston crowd will most likely play a role this week. In 1999, fans who descended on Brookline for the Ryder Cup heckled Team Europe, at times the emotion spilling over to the unsavory. Ask Colin Montgomerie. In the end, the home team benefited from the partisan support, using it to their advantage as the United States overturned a then-record four-point deficit to triumph.

While this week should be nowhere near as tribal as the biennial battle between continents, the development of LIV Golf adds an intriguing subplot. How will Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, in particular, be received? The sentiment was stoked by the new series and only deepened by the inclusion of some of the game’s most famous names.

So far this week, players have been met with a generally warm reception. However, on Friday afternoons, or even on weekends, when the fans get particularly lively, reception might pick up. If extremely negative, could it affect player performance?

Phil Mickelson gives a thumbs up as he signs autographs for fans at the Country Club.  AFP

Can the much maligned Mickelson make even more history?

With his appearance this week generating plenty of unfavorable headlines, Mickelson’s quest to join a particularly select group has been somewhat overlooked. The American’s incredibly impressive six Major titles do not include the US Open, which means if he wins this week he will become just the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam.

Mickelson already has his fair share of history, having reigned supreme over the US PGA Championship last year to become, at the age of 50, the sport’s oldest great champion. However, this has not been a normal buildup. Mickelson ended a voluntary four-month hiatus last week by playing in the opener at LIV Golf, but finished tied for 33rd (out of 48 players) as he clearly struggled throughout the weekend -end.

Mickelson attributed that to problems with the putter and resurfaced at Brookline on Monday emphasizing his short stick. The least we can say is that recent times have been difficult for Mickelson; how he performs this week, considered by many to be the leader of golf’s great revolution, will be extremely interesting to watch. Don’t forget he’s a six-time US Open runner-up.

Rory McIlroy is preparing for the US Open.  PA

Could Rory McIlroy go straight ahead and end a major drought?

Such is McIlroy’s reputation and obvious repertoire, that he comes across any major as one of the main storylines. So that was only accentuated by Sunday’s performance at the Canadian Open. The Northern Irishman delivered a display for the ages, fending off Thomas and others down the straight to shoot a 62 and secure a 21st PGA Tour title.

Victory at the RBC Canadian Open gives McIlroy the opportunity this week to become the first player since 2014 to win a major the week after winning the PGA Tour. The last to do so? McIlroy, when he completed his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational triumph with a victory at the US PGA Championship.

Perhaps crucially, his corner game was on point in Canada, a consistent weakness becoming a real strength to remind everyone that when all parts of his game are working, McIlroy remains the game’s standout contender. Still, it’s been eight long years since the 2011 US Open champion enjoyed major success. This week feels as good as any, really, to finally land a fifth “big one.”

Jon Rahm during a practice round ahead of the US Open at Brookline Country Club.  PA

Can Jon Rahm emulate Brooks Koepka’s successful defense?

Twelve months ago, Rahm recorded a remarkable finish at Torrey Pines to clinch a first Major crown. It was made all the more extraordinary by the fact that, weeks before, the Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament due to a positive Covid-19 test. At the time, he held a six-stroke lead.

The former world No. 1 enters this week as the second-ranked player in the field of 156 players, highlighted by last month’s victory at the US PGA Mexico Open – his first since the US Open 2021. back in any event is never easy, but even more so in the majors.

However, the most recent example was not so long ago, when Koepka retained the title he won in Erin Hills with a stunning performance at Shinnecock Hills in 2018. Rahm’s success last year ended the six-year American stranglehold on their national championship; this week again, he and McIlroy form the most obvious threat to America’s hopes for glory.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 03:45

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