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Golf-McIlroy grouped with Koepka as PGA-LIV battle set to continue at US Open

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(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka, two of the central players in the bitter two-year dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, will tee off together when the 123rd U.S. Open begins at Los Angeles Country Club.

World number three McIlroy and newly crowned PGA Championship winner Koepka will be joined by former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama for the first two rounds and tee off at 1:54 p.m. local time (2054 GMT) on Thursday.

The tournament will be the first major to be played since the bombshell announcement of a partnership between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV circuit.

McIlroy, bidding to end a nine-year major drought, has been one of the PGA Tour’s most vocal backers and said last week that while the merger would ultimately be good for the sport, players who jumped to LIV will not be welcomed back with open arms.

Koepka became the first active member of LIV Golf to win a major when he triumphed by two shots at the PGA Championship three weeks ago.

Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick will go head-to-head with reigning British Open winner Cameron Smith – another LIV recruit – and American Sam Bennett.

World number one Scottie Scheffler headlines the morning action when he starts his bid alongside two-times major champion Collin Morikawa and home favourite Max Homa.

Masters champion Jon Rahm, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, will also be out early and has been grouped with Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, ranked fifth and sixth in the world, respectively.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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