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Mickelson the last to sign up for Saudi-funded golf league – The Globe and Mail

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Phil Mickelson was the last big name to join the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational that starts Friday outside London. It will be Mickelson’s first time playing since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International.The Canadian Press

Phil Mickelson, a chief recruiter for a Saudi-funded rival league to the PGA Tour, is ending his four-month hiatus by adding his name to the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational that starts Friday outside London.

Mickelson will be joining Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and three other former major champions in a 54-hole tournament at Centurion Golf Club with $25 million in prize money and $4 million going to the individual winner.

“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career,” Mickelson said in a statement posted on social media.

Mickelson also said he would be playing the last two majors, starting June 16 in the U.S. Open at The Country Club outside Boston.

He said the “transformative” new league would allow him to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. Mickelson did not mention the signing fee, which is likely to be every bit of the $125 million or more reportedly paid to Johnson.

It will be Mickelson’s first time playing since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International, where he first began to draw attention to how he was leaning when he accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.

Two weeks later, Alan Shipnuck published excerpts from his unauthorized biography on Mickelson in which the six-time major champion acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but said it was worth getting involved if it meant gaining leverage to make changes on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson also said he and three other top players paid attorneys to write the operating agreement of the new league. He later apologized for what he said were reckless comments, without mentioning the PGA Tour.

But then he was out of view for four months, skipping the Masters and the PGA Championship, which he had won the year before at age 50 to become the oldest major champion in history.

Mickelson apologized again in Monday’s statement, adding that he “empathizes” with those who disagree with his decision to leave the PGA Tour for a league funded primarily by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia.

“His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him,” said Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf Investments. “He strengthens an exciting field for London where we’re proud to launch a new era for golf.”

The PGA Tour did not grant releases for any of its 14 members who have signed up for the rival series, a list that also includes Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel.

Five other players from the Asian Tour were added as exemptions.

Even as Mickelson was the leader in trying to get players to join, his name was left off the original field list that was released on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph reported Johnson, at No. 15 the highest-ranked player in the world, received upward of $125 million to join.

The decision likely means the end of Mickelson’s career on the PGA Tour because players who defect are likely to face suspensions for violating tour regulations by playing overseas without a release.

Mickelson has 45 career PGA Tour victories and has amassed nearly $100 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He won his first tour event in 1991 when he was an amateur at Arizona State and his most recent title last year at the PGA.

The LIV Golf Invitational is the first of eight such tournaments, with five of them scheduled for the United States, two of them on courses owned by former President Donald Trump.

At least six players in the field already have resigned their PGA Tour memberships. Kevin Na announced his decision on social media. The manager for Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Branden Grace said they have resigned, too.

As much as he was promoting a new concept, Mickelson appeared to be the one who caused the Saudi league to lose momentum with his interviews in February that disparaged the Saudis (“scary mother-(expletives)”) and the PGA Tour (“A dictatorship. They divide and conquer.”)

All the top players – including Johnson – initially pledged their support for the PGA Tour. Johnson later changed his mind.

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Tiger Woods had a tough opening round at The 152nd Open Championship

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Tiger Woods encountered difficulties during the opening round of The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, finishing with an 8-over-par 79. Despite a promising beginning, including a birdie on the third hole, Woods struggled to find consistency throughout the round. His iron play and putting were particularly problematic, contributing to a series of bogeys and double bogeys.

Woods’ performance saw him slightly above average off the tee and around the green. However, he lost over two strokes to the field in both approach play and putting, ranking near the bottom in these categories. This marks a significant challenge for the 15-time major champion, especially considering the competitive field and the demanding conditions at Royal Troon.

Reflecting on his round, Woods admitted, “I didn’t do a lot of things right today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today. I need to shoot something in the mid-60s tomorrow to get something going on the weekend.” He emphasized the need for a strong performance on Friday to make the cut and remain in contention.

Woods, 48, has shown determination and resilience, competing in all four majors this year for the first time since his serious car accident in 2021. Despite physical limitations, he believes he can still contend for major titles under the right conditions. His performance on Thursday puts him in a challenging position, requiring a significant turnaround in the second round to stay in the tournament.

As Woods prepares for Friday’s round, his focus remains on improving his game and making the cut. Fans and analysts alike will be watching to see if he can achieve the remarkable recovery needed to advance and compete over the weekend. Woods’ journey at The 152nd Open Championship continues to be a testament to his enduring skill and competitive spirit.

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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