Rory Mcilroy, who won last week's Memorial, is favored this week at the 2022 U.S. Open. File Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI | License Photo
June 16 (UPI) -- Staunch LIV Golf critic Rory McIlroy is favored to win this week's 2022 U.S. Open, which will allow players from the Saudi-funded breakaway competition to compete against PGA Tour counterparts in Brookline, Mass.
The Open will run Thursday through Sunday at The Country Club and will air on USA Network and NBC.
Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and Kevin Na are among the 17 players who competed in LIV Golf's first event last weekend near London and were suspended for violating PGA Tour regulations. Seven of those players will compete in Brookline.
Golfers continue to be peppered by reporters about the breakaway competition, and several voiced frustration about the distraction this week at news conferences.
"I'm trying to focus on the U.S. Open," Brooks Koepka told reporters Tuesday. "I legitimately don't get it. I'm tired of the conversations and all this stuff. [It is] throwing a dark cloud over the U.S. Open."
McIlroy, the No. 3 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, No. 5 Justin Thomas, No. 2 Jon Rahm, No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and No. 6 Cameron Smith are the favorites to win.
No. 10 Jordan Spieth, No. 12 Xander Schauffele, No. 18 Matt Fitzpatrick, No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, No. 9 Sam Burns and No. 14 Will Zalatoris are in the Top 10 expected contenders.
"This is the U.S. Open, an unbelievable venue and a place with so much history, an unbelievable field with so many storylines, yet all the questions are about [LIV Golf]," Thomas told reporters Monday.
"It's unfortunate. That's not right. ... But it's unfortunately where we are at right now."
The winner of the U.S. Open will receive $3.15 million of the tournament's $17.5 million prize purse. U.S. Open pairings were released earlier this week, including several groups combining PGA and LIV Golf competitors.
Rahm, No. 7 Collin Morikawa and No. 1,763 James Piot are among the notable groups with an early first-round tee time. They will start at 7:18 a.m. EDT Thursday on No. 1. Spieth, No. 43 Adam Scott and No. 23 Max Homa will tee off 11 minutes later on No. 1.
Thomas, who won last month's PGA Championship, is grouped with No. 8 Viktor Hovland and No. 15 Tony Finau. Mickelson (No. 77) is in the same group as Oosthuizen (No. 22). The LIV Golf competitors will play alongside No. 24 Shane Lowry.
Johnson will tee off in the same group as Matthew Fitzpatrick and Webb Simpson. McIlroy is grouped with Schauffele and No. 13 Hideki Matsuyama.
LIV Golf competitors Kevin Na and Sergio Garcia will tee off from No. 10 with Tyrell Hatton in the first round. Koepka and Scheffler are grouped with Cameron Smith.
No rain is expected through the week in Brookline, but wind speeds are expected to be about 16 mph over the weekend. The 7,264-yard course also should be a brutal challenge for the field.
The Country Club course is littered with large trees and dogleg turns, which can blind golfers from their targets. Fast greens, staggered course elevations and thick, long roughs also could result in higher scores.
The tournament will play at a par of 70. The Top 60 scores and ties through two rounds will advance to Saturday's third round.
"The course is in pristine shape," Mickelson said Monday. "It's a remarkable golf course. A number of tees have been lengthened. ... I think we are all excited for the test that this golf course provides. It looks to be a brutal test of golf. That's what this championship is all about."
2022 U.S. Open
Thursday: First round from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on USA Network; from 2 to 5 p.m. on NBC; from 5 to 7 p.m. on USA Network
Friday: Second round from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on USA Network; from 4 to 7 p.m. on NBC
Saturday: Third round from noon to 8 p.m. on NBC
Sunday: Final round from 10 a.m. to noon on USA Network; from noon to 7 p.m. on NBC
South African Charl Schwartzel lifts the inaugural LIV trophy at the Centurion Club in Hemel Hempstead, England, on June 11, 2022. Schwartzel won $4 million for winning the event. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo