DEREK LAWRENSON: Saudi rebels can thank Boston Celtics for low-key hostility on US Open opening day

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DEREK LAWRENSON: Saudi rebels can thank NBA finalists the Boston Celtics for low-key hostility they received on the opening day of the US Open… but there was certainly no ‘happy birthday’ rendition to Phil Mickelson

  • Saudi rebels faced low-key hostility during the opening round of the US Open 
  • Phil Mickelson was given a respectful reception but there was no birthday song 
  • Boston’s rowdiest are consumed by the Celtics’ participation in the NBA finals
  • It’s invariably Friday afternoon when the beer and the abuse normally flows

Phil Mickelson was spared the humiliation of an American crowd turning on him in any great numbers on the opening day of the US Open. All the indignities on his 52nd birthday centred around his scorecard.

There were double bogeys to take into account, there was a four-putt from no distance at all. He signed for a horrible 78 to all but guarantee the likelihood of him experiencing something on Friday that he won’t have to worry about in his new future with the Saudis – a missed halfway cut.

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As the biggest Saudi stooge of all, there was naturally plenty of intrigue as to what reception the long-time darling of the crowd and a six-time bridesmaid in this event would get in his first competitive round in America for four months.

Saudi rebels including Phil Mickelson didn’t face much fan hostility on the opening day

Mickelson received a respectful reception though did receive the odd comment from members of the crowd and there was no 'happy birthday' song as he turned 52-years-old

Mickelson received a respectful reception though did receive the odd comment from members of the crowd and there was no ‘happy birthday’ song as he turned 52-years-old

As he waited on the first tee, the toll that his time in exile had taken on him was all too obvious. With considerable stubble, dark shades, largely logo-free and blowing his cheeks out continuously in gestures of obvious nervousness, the cocksure character of old was barely recognizable.

Mickelson was given a reception that was certainly respectful, if hardly filled with the full-throated reverence of old. There was certainly no ‘happy birthday’ rendition to the man who turned 52, as there would have been in happier, less divisive times.

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The transformation didn’t end with his appearance. What happened to the game of the man who become the oldest winner in majors history just over a year ago? This was probably his final realistic chance to complete the career Grand Slam, and it turned out to be not realistic at all.

Someone screamed at Bryson DeChambeau that he was 'overpaid and overrated'

Someone screamed at Bryson DeChambeau that he was ‘overpaid and overrated’

Dustin Johnson was given a police escort on the way over to his first tee on Thursday

Dustin Johnson was given a police escort on the way over to his first tee on Thursday

Out on the course, Mickelson came in for some sporadic harassment, although only what he would have expected. ‘We used to love you, Phil,’ came one forlorn cry. ‘Hey Phil – greed is good,’ was another.

It’s invariably Friday afternoon, with the weekend in sight and the beers on tap, that the abuse usually flows. To that end, the US Golf Association did their best to limit the damage by giving every one of the high-profile LIV rebels a late tee-time on Thursday followed by an early one today.

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The pick of them was Dustin Johnson, who shot 68 in the more difficult afternoon conditions. Bryson DeChambeau, subject to a cry of ‘overpaid and overrated’ as he made his way to the first tee, did his best to counter the last of those claims with a creditable 71.

Boston's rowdiest fans are focusing on the Celtics' NBA Finals clash with Golden State Warriors

Boston’s rowdiest fans are focusing on the Celtics’ NBA Finals clash with Golden State Warriors

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