By Matt Smith
Welcome to LIV Golf, Patrick Reed and Henrik Stenson. The major winners have brought headlines and fanfare ahead of the third LIV Golf Invitational Series event at Bedminster, New Jersey.
And they definitely were the talk of the town after day 1 after
matching 7-under 64s to share the first-round lead at LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster.
Meanwhile, with Reed and captain Dustin Johnson leading the way, reigning team champs 4 Aces GC, winners in Portland, grabbed a one-stroke lead over Stenson’s Majesticks GC in the team competition.
Reed and Stenson are two shots ahead of Phachara Khongwatmai (Iron Heads GC) at five-under. Johnson and Carlos Ortiz (Fireballs GC) are another stroke back on a day in which exactly half of the 48-man field at the par-71 Trump National Golf Club Bedminster broke par.
After making his lone bogey of the day, Reed reeled off six birdies during a seven-hole stretch, then finished his round with a birdie on his last hole. It was a continuation of his play in his LIV Golf debut at Portland, where he tied for third after a sizzling final round.
“Just kind of felt like I was putting the ball in the right place,” said Reed, who led the field in fewest putts with 25. “Around a golf course like this, even though the greens are relatively large, you’ve got to put the ball in the right spots.
“I felt like I left myself below the hole most of the day, so I was able to be aggressive with the putter. With how pure these greens are, once one goes in, it kind of felt like I was able to get on that run.”
It was a whirlwind welcome for Stenson, who was stripped of the Ryder Cup Team Europe captaincy ahead of his LIV Golf debut. He had missed the cut in four of his last six worldwide starts but found a huge following in the States, as he turned in a round that saw him hit 13 of 14 fairways, and 17 of 18 greens in regulation. He ran off a string of three consecutive birdies early in his round, and then finished it with two more.
Calling it “the best I’ve played all year,” Stenson said he was pleased with his focus.
“Unlike Patrick, I did end up on the high side a couple of times, and even though I had really short birdie putts, had to be very cautious,” Stenson said. “The greens are running really quickly. They’re pure and quick, and then you’ve got the slope on top of that.”
Stenson is one of four players making their LIV Golf debuts this week. Another one is Charles Howell III, who shot an opening three-under 68 to give his Crushers GC its best round.
While the vibe was different than the 600-plus other tournaments he’s played as a professional, Howell said he went into competitive mode once play began.
“It was fun, the music playing. I really liked that,” Howell said. “I play a lot of professional events. Never played with that. It was actually really fun.
“It was relaxed, but the golf course is challenging and tough. … Once we started, it was a golf tournament again on a hard golf course.”
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) July 30, 2022
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. The best two scores in Round 1, the best two scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 will combine to produce the team score.
The total team prize money for each event is $5 million, with the winning team dividing $3 million, second place dividing $1.5 million and third place dividing $500,000 among its four team members.
Here is the leaderboard and Friday’s counting scores in the first round at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster:
1. 4 Aces GC (-11)
Patrick Reed 64
Dustin Johnson 67
2. Majesticks GC (-10)
Henrik Stenson 64
Ian Poulter 68
3. Iron Heads GC (-6)
Phachara Khongwatmai 66
Scott Vincent 70
T-4. Smash GC (-5)
Brooks Koepka 68
Chase Koepka 69
T-4. Fireballs GC (-5)
Carlos Ortiz 67
Sergio Garcia 70
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