LIV Golf players, led by Dustin Johnson, finding success at The Open amid backlash for breaking away

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Criticisms leveled at LIV golfers by their peers and sport’s stakeholders shook them up at the 150th Open, according to Talor Gooch.

Gooch carded a 3-under 69 on Friday to sit 7-under after the first two rounds at St Andrews. With Dustin Johnson at the top end of the leaderboard at 9-under and Sergio Garcia firing a 6-under 66 in the second round, players from the breakaway LIV series are firmly in the mix for the Claret Jug competing this weekend.

Their game is based on criticism leveled at LIV Golf by R&A and other golfers. Rory McIlroy said it would be “better for the game” if a LIV player didn’t win this year’s Opens, while Tiger Woods said those who had joined LIV had “turned their backs” on the sport.

Gooch has heard some of the criticism and when asked if that motivated LIV golfers to perform at St Andrews he replied: ‘Yes, sure. Everyone, it feels, is against us and that’s okay. Like you said, it kind of bonded us, I think.”

LIV golfers like Lee Westwood and Paul Casey had promising first rounds, while Abraham Ancer, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau are also there.

“I think there are some strong players [in LIV], without doubt. Everyone’s testimonials speak for themselves,” Gooch said. “Obviously it’s cool for me to see other guys out there playing well. We’ve received a lot of criticism for what we’ve been doing here lately.

“I think one thing that cannot be questioned is the quality of the players that are there.”

But Johnson said the criticism was not a motivating factor for him.

“I don’t because I honestly don’t read anything,” Johnson said. “So I wouldn’t know what you said or if anything negative was said. I don’t pay attention to it.”

While those who have joined LIV have not backed down this week in their belief that joining the breakaway group was the right call, Gooch has retracted previous comments on the new series.

After playing at the LIV event at Pumpkin Ridge outside of Portland, Oregon, Gooch was asked about the atmosphere and said, “I haven’t played a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup, but I can’t imagine it playing a heck of a lot of which there is difference.”

When asked about those comments after his round on Friday, Gooch said some players had questioned his view.

“Yeah, a few players showed up, and they’re like, really? For real? I thought wait a second guys. give me a little break I just won,” Gooch said. “I was in the moment. I may have gotten a little aggressive with the comments.

“We were excited. I watch F1. I was so excited to be able to spritz champagne like they do in F1. I was in the moment. Maybe a bit aggressive of a comment. Rightly so, I took a bit of heat for that .” LIV Golf players, led by Dustin Johnson, finding success at The Open amid backlash for breaking away

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