LIV Golf players were lurking on the leaderboard after the first round of the British Open at St. Andrews on Thursday.

Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Talor Gooch were 4-under, four shots behind leader Cameron Young. Bryson DeChambeau was 3-under as was Ian Poulter.

Things got testy between Westwood and a reporter when the Englishman blamed the media for “stoking’’ the tension between the LIV Golf players and the non-LIV players, the NY Post reports.

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“I think the media are stoking it up and doing as much as they can to aid that,’’ Westwood said. “I think the general public just want to go out there and see good golf no matter where it’s being played or who’s playing it.’’

When there was pushback from a reporter on that, Westwood said: “We could stand here and argue all day, but … I’ve spoken to a lot of (non-LIV players) and there’s no animosity between players. Yet the story’s been written that there are. Yeah, you’re creating issues where there are none. You want to be that way, fine.’’

Tensions elevated when a reporter suggested that the R&A wouldn’t be happy to see a player from LIV Golf win this week.

“Who told you that, (R&A CEO) Martin Slumbers?’’ Westwood said. “Did he tell you the R&A wouldn’t be happy? Did he say that?’’

When the reporter said, “No,’’ Westwood said: “Well, you just made that up then, all right. So, we don’t need to have that conversation, do we? I think he’ll be happy with whoever is the Champion Golfer of the Year holding the trophy aloft on Sunday night because they’ll have played the best. And that’s what the R&A want from this championship. They want the best player to win, regardless of what Tour they play on.’’

Poulter, meanwhile, disputed reports that he was being heckled by spectators for his alliance with the Saudi-backed tour.

“I actually thought I had a great reception on the first tee, to be honest,’’ he said.

“All I heard was clapping. I have heard not one heckle. In three weeks, I’ve heard nothing. Not one noise. You lot can write whatever you like about being heckled and booing. You’ve walked 18 holes. Did you hear one comment?’’

Despite the divide between the players who’ve taken the Saudi money and the players backing the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Poulter said his relationship with the non-LIV players hasn’t changed.

“We might have a difference of opinion, but they’re my friends,’’ he said.

“We all have opinions, right? We’re still friends, whatever the landscape is and wherever you’re playing golf.’’

Asked about his reaction to the strong way Slumbers denounced the players who’ve gone to play for LIV Golf, Poulter said: “I purposely haven’t looked at all. I don’t want to know. You can tell me, (but) I’m not going to listen. I’m here to play golf. This could probably be my last Open Championship at St. Andrews, so I’m trying to enjoy it despite the questioning. I’m staying out of the way.’’

DeChambeau said he respects everybody’s opinions, but added: “This is a major championship. I’m going into it with a mindset that I’m focused on trying to win this golf tournament. So, it hasn’t been on the top of my mind. I’ve been focused on competing doing my best out here.’’

Phil Mickelson made up for lost time with Australian Lucas Herbert, with whom he was paired Thursday. As the two stood on the 15th tee, Herbert gave Mickelson an earful about being blown off when asking him for an autograph when he was a teenage standard bearer at the 2011 Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

“I had a laugh with Phil today,’’ Herbert said. “I reminded him that I’ve hated him for 11 years as a result of him not signing an autograph for me. He was very apologetic and played along. It was pretty funny.’’

Mickelson said: “Yeah, I gave him one today. It was 11 years late. We had a good laugh.’’

Barclay Brown, an amateur from England, shot a 4-under 68 and stood just four shots out of the lead.

“I was unbelievably nervous at the start,’’ he said.

“Then once I got through the first couple of holes, yeah, it was nice to kind of calm down a little bit and hit some good shots and just get into it.’’

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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