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LIV Golf's first U.S. event shows signs of longevity, flexibility with players

LIV Golf made its U.S. debut in Portland on Thursday, and if the scene at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club "proves anything, it’s this: everyone at LIV is convinced it’s here to stay," according to Dylan Dethier of GOLF.com. To hear them tell it, the players are "thrilled to be" on the tour. Whatever "you may think of LIV, that’s crucial to understanding its future; the pros will be its most effective advocates and recruiters going forward, and happy pros will attract others." Bryson DeChambeau was "delighted at the possibility of bringing his production company inside the ropes alongside him for content capture." He said of LIV, “Anything we ask for, they’re allowing us to do." Meanwhile, this week the "fan-free practice rounds were particularly low-key, with friends and teams roaming freely across the grounds." Agents, managers and coaches are "welcomed on the fairways." One coach "remarked that LIV is more welcoming than any tour he’s ever been on." He said, “You have actual human rights out here.” The music "cascading over the driving range was an engaging touch, as were the speakers set up every few holes." There were "tense moments in press conferences -- fueled by another good innovation, bringing three players up instead of just one at a time" (GOLF.com 6/30).

AVOIDING THE OBVIOUS? GOLF DIGEST's Dan Rapaport noted inside Pumpkin Ridge’s gates, and outside the media center, there has been "hardly any talk of the Twin Towers, Mohammed bin Salman, Jamal Khashoggi, Fallon Smart." No one is "discussing sharia law’s treatment of Christians or homosexuals or women." The players "have been clear in their justification for being here: I’m here to play golf and entertain the fans." Rapaport estimated "somewhere in the 3,000 range" for attendance on Thursday. But the fans on-site "wanted to watch the golf, and they wanted to be entertained" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/30).

FEELING THE VIBE: In Portland, Mitchell Forde notes those in attendance Thursday were "greeted by a scene that more closely represented a music festival than a country club, engineered to appeal to an audience beyond typical golf fans." A sprawling fan village "contained myriad Instagrammable decorations and Tik Tok-able interactive activities." Performers "rode around the area on oversized bikes or handless hoverboards." Food trucks provided a "wide range of concessions, while vendors sold beers for $5 apiece (a drastic departure from the PGA Championship, which somewhat infamously charged $18 per Michelob Ultra)." The "laid-back atmosphere inside the Pumpkin Ridge gates did not reveal so much as a hint of the criticism that has followed the tour" (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/1).

TENSION BELOW THE SURFACE: ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said "protests marked the first day" of the LIV Golf tournament in Portland. The "SportsCenter" broadcast then aired highlights of the first round of the event (ESPN, 6/30). ESPN’s John Barr said ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, who is on-site at the tournament, "described a fairly relaxed atmosphere within the tournament bubble which stands in stark contrast to everything going on around it." Schlabach noted "it’s been tense at times" in the players' press conferences, "more tense with Brooks Koepka probably than the others." But Schlabach added the "players seemed to be well-trained" when answering questions during their press conferences ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/30).

TALK OF THE TOWN: SBJ's "Strictly Business" Twitter Spaces talked all things LIV Golf on Thursday. SBJ's Josh Carpenter and David Rumsey were joined by The Fried Egg's Brendan Porath and Morning Read's Bob Harig, who is on the ground in Portland this week.

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