Non-LIV Golf members Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan lead the way after the first day of the BMW PGA Championship as the golf civil war hits the track for the first time with 17 rebels at DP World Tour’s flagship event
- Non-LIV Golf stars and rebels were in action in Wentworth, Surrey on Thursday
- Seventeen LIV golfers compete at DP World Tour’s flagship event
- England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan top the standings after day one
Stormy weather provided a fitting backdrop for the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth on Thursday, as players on both sides of golf’s bitter power struggle swung into action on the swampy fairways.
The flagship tournament of the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) has been overshadowed by the presence of 17 golfers who have signed up for the divisive LIV Tour – the Saudi Arabia-backed series that is rocking the status quo of golf .
Northern Ireland’s four-time great champion, Rory McIlroy, one of the favorites for the title, has made no effort to criticize some of his former Ryder Cup peers who have jumped ship for the riches of the LIV Tour.
He is joined in a strong field by US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, 2021 Wentworth winner Billy Horschel and former US Open winner Jon Rahm of Spain, all of whom have had nothing to do with the LIV Tour.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, another player not part of the LIV breakaway tour, topped the standings after Thursday’s opening round with an excellent eight-under-64, finishing with four consecutive birdies and joining the pack at the top. by fellow countryman Andy Sullivan.
Tommy Fleetwood tops the score after the first round along with compatriot Andy Sullivan
Heavy rain fell on the 17th fairway of the BMW Championship in Wentworth on day one
Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the sixth hole amid rain showers in England’s Wentworth
Former Open champion Shane Lowry, who was in the same group as Fleetwood, is two shots away from the lead after a bogey-free 66, while Rory McIlroy and defending champion Billy Horschel both shot 68 despite heavy rain making conditions difficult.
Of the LIV Tour contingent, Abraham Ancer and Bernd Wiesberger were the highest on four-under.
McIlroy has said it would be ‘hard to digest’ to play alongside the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia at Wentworth and echoed his opponents on Wednesday.
Former Europe Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, a DP World Tour board member, told Sky Sports that those who signed up for the LIV Tour should not be playing at Wentworth.
“They’ve decided to leave the European Tour collective, which is a bit like a union where everyone is together and then the value of that collective is used to take and get commercial opportunities,” he said.
“If you leave that collective, that’s fine, you go in a different direction, but then you can’t come back and you can’t play as part of a collective that you left and is actually in economic trouble.”
Matthew Jordan, from England, is currently in third place after a score below 65
LIV players, including Spain’s Sergio Garcia, are allowed to participate in Wentworth
McIlroy said it would be ‘hard to digest’ to play alongside LIV golfers like Ian Poulter (pictured)
Launched at the inaugural event near London in June, the LIV Tour boasts a dazzling $255 million in prize money – dwarfed by what’s available on the DP World Tour.
Unlike the mighty PGA Tour, which has suspended players like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson for jumping ship, the DP World Tour hasn’t followed suit next year with a lawsuit likely to decide whether they can play in both.
At least McIlroy was spared any awkwardness as he was paired up with Fitzpatrick and Horschel before lap one in front of large galleries hiding under umbrellas from the heavy downpours.
There was no hiding the tension in the air as the LIV Tour signatories began their rounds, but McIlroy let his wave do the talking when he opened with a four-under 68.