US OPEN NOTEBOOK: Golf schism the talk of The Country Club

Bryson DeChambeau hits from the 18th tee during the second round of the Memorial golf tournament Friday, June 3, 2022, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — Bryson DeChambeau called his move to the LIV Golf series “a business decision,” and a difficult one at that.

The 2020 U.S. Open champion, who as recently as 10 days ago had said he was sticking with the PGA Tour, offered his first comments about his change of heart Monday after a practice round at The County Club.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business decision for my family’s future,” he said. “And it gave me a lot more free time.”

The big-hitting 28-year-old, who has been hampered by a hand injury for most of this year, says the money he’ll get for playing the series will also help him build his charitable foundation. DeChambeau is unmarried and has no children.

Much as Phil Mickelson had in a news conference earlier in the day, DeChambeau didn’t want to delve into the politics of where the money is coming from — the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia — or how the PGA Tour will react to his decision. Like Mickelson, DeChambeau has not surrendered his tour card.

“It’s not my decision to make,” he said about his future on the PGA Tour, where he has $26.3 million in career earnings and eight of his 10 worldwide victories.

DeChambeau is scheduled to make his LIV series debut next month in Portland, Oregon. He said the decision to play on the Saudi-backed tour was one that he did not take lightly.

“Very difficult,” he said. “It’s been weighing on everyone out here for the last couple of years.”

LOCAL FAVORITE

Growing up 15 minutes away from The Country Club, Michael Thorbjornsen knows plenty about the course and its history.

Most of it from the movies.

A resident of nearby Wellesley, Thorbjornsen has seen “The Greatest Game Ever Played” eight times but only once played the course where the film about Francis Ouimet's 1913 U.S. Open victory took place.

“I mean, Tom Brady tried to become a member here. I think it took him a long time,” Thorbjornsen said Monday after a practice round for the U.S. Open. “It feels really cool to be on property."

The Country Club is hosting the U.S. Open for the fourth time. After Ouimet, an amateur who lived across the street and caddied at the club, beat English professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff in 1913, Julius Boros won in 1963 and Curtis Strange won in 1988.

In the 1999 Ryder Cup, the Americans charged back from a 10-6 deficit on the final day for a victory dubbed “The Battle of Brookline.”

Thorbjornsen wasn't born yet for any of that, and he was only 13 when the USGA announced the course would host the 2022 U.S. Open.

“At that moment, I made it my goal to qualify for this event,” said Thorbjornsen, who played a practice round on Monday with a high school friend, with his family following him around the course. “It felt great. It feels like a home event.”

BACK IN TOWN

Matt Fitzpatrick didn’t only leave his first visit to The Country Club with a nice shiny trophy. He also made some lifelong friends.

The 2013 U.S. Amateur champion is staying with the same family that hosted him when he won the tournament in Brookline. The Englishman spent his first-ever Thanksgiving with the Fulton family later that year when he was in college at Northwestern, and also visited them in 2016.

“We came for a week and played the course and stuff,” Fitzpatrick said. “Staying with them this week, which is going to be good fun.”

The U.S. Amateur victory earned Fitzpatrick a spot in the British Open and the following year’s Masters and U.S. Open, along with invitations to a handful of PGA Tour events. He earned his first professional win at the British Masters in 2015 and has won six other tournaments in Europe and Asia.

“All of a sudden it opens up all these doors. I never realized how big of a deal it was over here until after winning,” he said on Monday. “So I’ve got all these events that I’ve been invited to, and just opportunities to get experience playing professional golf. ... Because of winning here, it sort of gave me that experience.”

Fitzpatrick finished tied for seventh at the Masters in 2016 and has twice finished tied for 12th at the U.S. Open. He is coming off his best-ever performance at a major, a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship after shooting 73 on Sunday.

“It was disappointing at first when you come off the golf course and sort of the realization that you had a chance to win and you’ve not taken it,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing well. I feel like I just made so many mistakes last week, just simple bogeys that you clear them up and all of a sudden you’re picking up a lot of shots.”

Fitzpatrick was 18 and heading off to college when he first came to Brookline in 2013, and he said it was a thrill to have his family with him, with his brother on the bag.

But not all the memories of the area are good.

“I don’t really like Thanksgiving food. It’s not for me,” he said, calling green beans the “worst thing ever invented.”

Asked if he had ever tasted New England clam chowder on one of his visits, he said: “Never tried it, but probably terrible.”

NICE GROUPING

Shane Lowry will have the best seat at Brookline to hear how fans respond to Phil Mickelson and other players who have joined a Saudi-funded rival league. He is in the same group as Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen, both of whom played in the LIV Golf Invitational last week.

It was a delicate act for the USGA, which often has fun with the tee times.

Sergio Garcia and Kevin Na also are in the rival league, and both have heard their share of heckling even without having to mention Saudi Arabia. They are paired together and joined by Tyrrell Hatton.

One traditional group is the defending champion (Jon Rahm), the British Open champion (Collin Morikawa) and the U.S. Amateur champion (James Piot), even though Piot is now a pro. He also was on the LIV Golf circuit last week.

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AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

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