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Golf-All eyes on Hollywood at U.S. Open drama arrives in LA

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By Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The PGA Tour’s stunning decision to welcome in massive investment from Saudi Arabia was a twist straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster so it is only fitting that all the leading characters will be in LA for this week’s U.S. Open.

After two years of railing against the Saudi-backed LIV Golf on moral grounds, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan did a jaw-dropping about-face last week when he announced an alliance with the country’s Public Investment Fund despite its human rights record.

Now the spotlight shifts to Los Angeles Country Club (LACC), which will roll out the red carpet even as the thorny issue including potential penalties for golfers who defected to LIV are still being worked out.

“It brings a lot of attention to the game of golf because people have watched this story for so long,” Gene Sykes, president of the LACC, told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s one more chapter in this complicated and fascinating story. It will be a backdrop.”

In some ways, nothing has changed since the bombshell agreement was announced on June 6.

The field of players teeing it off on Thursday is unchanged since the USGA previously said that, like the three other majors, it would allow both PGA Tour and LIV golfers to compete.

But just below the surface, everything is different.

The agreement is widely seen as a win for the Saudis, who have been accused of laundering their reputation for oppressive policies against women, the LGBT community and journalists by getting a foothold into sports.

On the course, the narrative that dominated the past two majors was whether a PGA Tour player or LIV golfer would emerge victorious, and that will presumably be a dead issue now.

But the feuds that broke out between golfers from the rival leagues is unlikely to be patched up so quickly.

Hosting the U.S. Open for the first time, LACC is poised to torment players including favourites Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy with its narrow fairways and nasty rough.

“The rough around the bunkers in particular will be difficult,” Sykes said.

Broadcasters hope viewers will be able to put the drama of the new deal to the side and focus on the tournament.

“Not to be too Pollyannaish about the whole thing, but we’re right in the middle of Hollywood so let’s write a good Hollywood script,” NBC commentator Dan Hicks said.

“This is the best way to counter everything we’ve seen in golf. I think it’s the perfect place, the perfect championship, and the right time, because we need it.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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