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AP photo by Charlie Riedel / Baylor School graduate Harris English hits on the driving range during Wednesday's practice round for the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Remember the good old days, when the hours leading up to a major golf tournament were filled with the chatter of who could win and whether Tiger Woods has one more magical moment in the sun?

Yeah, the golf world before LIV — the Saudi-backed series that is money whipping everything in sight while trying to topple the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan.

Yep, those were the days.

Hey, I've never been one of those "shut up and dribble" proponents. Athletes are humans, and humans have feelings, opinions, stances.

But the geopolitical leanings of a crown prince bazillionaire, the recalibration of the term "sportswashing" and how nine figures turned Phil Mickelson from fan favorite into PGA pariah really made me long for the days of bellyaching about how long tour players are and how that changes the game. Yep, the good old days.

But these clearly are not those, and whether we want to hear it or not — especially with the U.S. Open teeing it up at one of the nation's oldest and historic venues — the LIV has dominated the chatter ahead of Thursday's first round.

It's a great divide across the sport, and understandably so. In fact, the only two things I believe can be universally agreeable in this entire situation is that the Saudis are scary (even Phil acknowledged that) and each side is awash in hypocrisy. Because where was this same media intensity regarding the NBA superstars for their complicity in China or playing exhibitions in UAE, which just banned the new Buzz Lightyear movie from being played there because it includes a same-sex kiss. Are we going to grill the U.S. soccer folks participating in the World Cup in Qatar?

This is low-hanging fruit, and the media masses can get preachy and hop on a pedestal because it's the chance to opine and finger point on a topic that is pretty universally one-sided. There is very little blowback to point at the human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia and the efforts to "sportswash" those sins.

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AP photo by Charles Krupa / Dustin Johnson signs autographs after Wednesday's practice round for the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Johnson recently resigned from the PGA Tour and signed with the LIV Golf series.

Even Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell, one of four Baylor School graduates on the PGA Tour and the winner of the 2019 Honda Classic, shared his thoughts during a Sirius XM interview on the PGA Channel this week and on social media regarding the LIV and the line being drawn between the PGA, the majors and some of the biggest names who have shunned the Saudi-funded series.

Mitchell posted this Wednesday on Twitter: "Enough players go, tour will have to cave, majors will have to cave, then stewards of the game will be one singular group with no financial responsibility to golf, because funds coming from alternative income. PGA, USGA, R&A, ANGC, Tour, all succeed purely on Golf, nothing else."

That's the threat, and the LIV's endless pockets have already promised Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others nine-figure signing bonuses just for joining.

Will that be the early wave of the future or legacy-ending career choices akin to a time-share on the beautiful coast line of Kansas?

Who knows? And frankly — on this day, when the U.S. Open is about to put a peg in the ground and make the game's best (even the LIV stars, because the USGA allowed those who qualified to play) remember what the rest of us know too well, that par is cool — who cares?

I want Luke List — another Baylor School alum in the field this week — to make a run. And Rory McIlroy, who has emerged through this as the current and future face of the game. Heck, whether they want to admit it or not, if Mickelson could find a way to be in the mix Sunday, it could be the most-watched golf event not involving Tiger in recent memory.

That's right, old FIGJAM himself could behoove everyone — himself included — by embracing the game rather than controversy and making it about the clubs, not the cash.

(Side note: Wonder if the locker room has changed the meaning of FIGJAM — Mickelson's alleged longtime nickname of "F-word, I'm Good, Just Ask Me" — to "F-word I'm Greedy, Just Ask Monahan" yet?) Here's hoping anyway.

But as for Mickelson competing, there is one thing overlapping the LIV discussion and the tournament this week. Here's betting Mickelson adds another salty memory in his long pursuit to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam.

Just like in the good old days.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and join the conversation with him by visiting timesfreepress.com/newsletters to sign up for our Sports newsletter delivered weekday mornings.

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