LONDON – Stormy weather provided a fitting backdrop for the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday where players on both sides of golf’s bitter power struggle were in action on the soggy fairways.

The flagship tournament of the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) has been overshadowed by the presence of 17 golfers who have signed up for the divisive LIV Tour – the Saudi-backed series rocking golf’s status quo.

Northern Ireland’s four-times major champion Rory McIlroy, one of the favourites for the title, has pulled no punches in criticising his former Ryder Cup colleagues who have jumped ship for the LIV Tour riches.

He is joined in a strong field by the likes of US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, 2021 Wentworth winner Billy Horschel and Spain’s former US Open winner John Rahm, all of whom have had nothing to do with the LIV Tour.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood, another player to shun the breakaway tour, topped the leaderboard with a superb eight-under 64, finishing with four successive birdies.

He was joined by compatriot Andy Sullivan and Norwegian Viktor Hovland who made it a three-way tie for the lead when he made a eagle on the par-five 18th.

Another Englishman, Matthew Jordan, was a shot back in fourth after six birdies on the back nine propelled him to a seven-under 65.

Former British Open champion Shane Lowry, who described the presence of LIV golfers as “disruptive”, carded a 66 and held a share of fifth place.

Of the LIV Tour contingent, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Mexican Abraham Ancer were the highest-placed on four-under before play was suspended early and the second round on Friday called off following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

Teammates

McIlroy had said it would be “hard to stomach” playing alongside the likes of former Ryder Cup team mates Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia at Wentworth and he re-stated his opposition on Wednesday.

Former Europe Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, a DP World Tour board member, told Sky Sports that those signed up for the LIV Tour should not be playing at Wentworth.

“They’ve decided to leave the collective that is the European Tour which is a little bit like a trade union where everybody’s in together and then the value of that collective is used to lever and get commercial opportunities,” he said on Thursday.

“Should you leave that collective that’s fine, you go on a different path, but you then shouldn’t be allowed to come back and also play as part of a collective that you left and are actually hurting economically.”

Last modified: September 9, 2022