BEDMINSTER ROUND 1 RECAP: REED, STENSON SET PACE; 4 ACES GC TAKES TEAM LEAD

Written by LIV GOLF STAFF

For Patrick Reed, it was – naturally -- a hot stretch. For newcomer Henrik Stenson, it was – naturally – crisp iron play. With both major winners playing true to form, they finished Friday with 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 5 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.”

Stenson had missed the cut in four of his last six worldwide starts before turning 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 3-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.”

TEAM LEADERBOARD

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:

TEAM

COUNTING SCORES

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

T-6. Torque GC (-3)

Jinichiro Kozuma 69
Yuki Inamori 70

T-6. Crushers GC (-3)

Charles Howell III 68
Bryson DeChambeau 71

T-8. Stinger GC (-2)

Branden Grace 70
Charl Schwartzel 70

T-8. Hy Flyers GC (-2)

Justin Harding 70
Matthew Wolff 70

T-10. Cleeks GC (-1)

Martin Kaymer 68
Graeme McDowell 73

T-10. Punch GC (-1)

Travis Smyth 69
Matt Jones 72

T-10. Niblicks GC (-1)

Peter Uihlein 70
Turk Pettit 71

HOW THE FOUR NEW PLAYERS FARED

Four players made their LIV Golf debuts on Friday. Here’s how they fared:

Henrik Stenson (64) – Hit 17 of 18 greens and 13 of 14 fairways with 8 birdies.

Charles Howell III (68) – Had three birdies in his first seven holes and needed just 27 putts.

Jason Kokrak (69) – Hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation but needed 32 putts.

Paul Casey (72) –Recorded his lone birdie on his final hole of the day.

MICKELSON EXPLAINS THE GORILLA VIDEO

As a promotional element for new LIV Golf broadcaster David Feherty’s debut this week, Phil Mickelson was one of several players recording a welcome video. Unlike the others, Mickelson was vacationing in Rwanda … and he managed to shoot his video with gorillas in the background.

After his round Friday, Mickelson provided the story behind the video.

He said eight months ago, he and wife Amy planned a trip for her 50th birthday, which was in May. The trip was to Rwanda, then to Tanzania. It was on the first leg when Mickelson shot the video after being informed that Feherty was joining LIV Golf.

“The video was just a random shot,” Mickelson explained. “It looked like it was a preserve, but one day out of a month, the gorillas come out of the jungle. There’s like a wall there and they come out of the jungle and eat some of the eucalyptus trees for the salt and the stem, and we were lucky enough to see them on that day because we had a much better view of the entire family.”

Mickelson said his wife was “all excited because a little baby gorilla came up to here and kind of bumped into her. She seems to have that effect on all animals. They all come to her. It was a really special trip for us.”

Henrik Stenson, standing next to Mickelson during the post-round press conference, then asked a question: “Did the gorilla bring a birthday present to her?”

Replied Mickelson with a smile: “They sang happy birthday for her.”

PLAYER QUOTEBOARD

Patrick Reed (on his all-American 4 Aces GC):

I love being able to look up at that leaderboard and not just see my name but also look for my guys, seeing, all right, what do we need to do to try to stay atop that leaderboard. It just gives you a little bit more edge and a little bit more fire to go out there and play.

Henrik Stenson (on Trump National Golf Course Bedminster):

It’s a tough golf course and … I felt extremely focused today. I was right into my game. You can’t ease off on your concentration around here.

Phil Mickelson (on his 4-over 75):

I don’t know what to say. It’s just stupid stuff, like I’m in a great spot on the 15th hole, par 5, to make birdie and I make bogey. It’s just stupid stuff I’ve been doing. It’s frustrating because I don’t feel lost. I don’t feel like I’m hitting terrible shots, but I’m just not scoring.

PERFORMANCE STATS

Driving accuracy – Lee Westwood, Travis Smyth, 100% (14 of 14 fairways)

Greens in regulation – Henrik Stenson, 94.44% (17 of 18 greens)

Scrambling – Matthew Wolff, 85.71% (6 of 7)

Fewest putts – Patrick Reed, 25 putts

Putts in GIR – Patrick Reed, 1.43

Eagles made – Brooks Koepka (8th hole), Abraham Ancer (8th hole)

Bogey-free round: none.

HOLE STATS

Easiest hole – 590-yard par-5 8th, which played to a stroke average of 4.583.

Hardest hole –251-yard par-3 14th, which played to a stroke average of 3.292.

Course stroke average: Rd. 1 (70.750). Par is 71.

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