BEDMINSTER ROUND 2 RECAP: STENSON LEADS BY 3; 4 ACES GC SEEK BACK-TO-BACK WINS
Written by LIV GOLF STAFF
Henrik Stenson enters Sunday’s final round hoping to make his LIV Golf debut a successful one. The 4 Aces GC hope to spoil the party while continuing their domination of the team competition.
In difficult scoring conditions at LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster on Saturday, Stenson (Majesticks GC) battled back from an early double bogey to shoot a 2-under 69 in the second round. That moved the 46-year-old Swedish star to 9 under, giving him a three-shot lead over 4 Aces GC Captain Dustin Johnson.
Another shot back are two of Johnson’s teammates, Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch, in a three-way tie for third with Carlos Ortiz (Fireballs GC).
“I didn't have my best stuff today, but I was still focused and good attitude, and that's what kept me in the ballgame,” said Stenson, seeking his 22nd career professional win. “Pleased with the way I've kind of kept my head down and focused on business.”
Stenson doubled the par-4 third after an errant tee shot bounced off a cart path and into the bushes. After finding his ball and weighing his drop options, Stenson opted to return to the tee box and hit another drive. His double knocked him out of the lead, but he bounced back with an eagle at the par-5 eighth, then shot 2 under after the turn.
Johnson also shot a 69 to move up the leaderboard. Despite starting Sunday three strokes back, he thinks the challenging Trump National Golf Course means no lead is safe.
“Obviously he's definitely in reach for sure, especially around this course,” Johnson said.
With winds gusting over 20 mph, the par-71 course played to nearly two strokes higher on Saturday. Fortunately for 4 Aces GC, the player having the least amount of problems was Gooch, who shot a bogey-free 7-under 64. The only other player to shoot anything better than 2 under was Turk Pettit with a 67.
With Gooch and Johnson providing the counting scores, 4 Aces GC leads the team standings at 20 under, with Majesticks GC the closest competitor at 14 under. Fireballs GC is third at 7 under. The top three teams receive prize money from a $5 million team purse.
Three weeks ago, 4 Aces GC won by seven strokes in Portland after a lineup adjustment to add Reed, Gooch and Pat Perez.
“His guys have been playing unbelievable,” said Ortiz, who finished solo second in Portland and provided the birdie putt on the final hole that lifted Fireballs GC onto the podium in third place. “Talor Gooch, 7-under today, I don't know where he played. He didn't play the same golf course as I did.”
Through two rounds, nobody has played it better than Stenson. He’s ready for one more day.
“I'm just going to focus on doing my best out there tomorrow,” he said, “and we'll see where it takes us.”
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 Saturday’s counting scores in the second round at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster:
1. 4 Aces GC (-20)
Talor Gooch 64
2. Majesticks GC (-14)
Henrik Stenson 69
3. Fireballs GC (-7)
Carlos Ortiz 70
4. Iron Heads GC (-5)
Sadom Kaewkanjana 71
5. Stinger GC (-4)
Charl Schwartzel 69
6. Niblicks GC (-3)
Turk Pettit 67
T-7. Cleeks GC (-1)
Martin Kaymer 71
T-7. Hy Flyers GC (-1)
Matthew Wolff 70
9. Crushers GC (E)
Paul Casey 71
10. Smash GC (+1)
Chase Koepka 73
11. Punch GC (+3)
Travis Smyth 73
12. Torque GC (+6)
Jinichiro Kozuma 75
Patrick Reed was even par on his round at the turn. But he started the back nine with three consecutive bogeys before pulling himself back into the mix with an eagle at the par-5 15th. Asked if he was hot wearing an all-black outfit in the in the high temperatures, Reed replied, “Outside, no. Inside with how I was playing, oh, yeah.”
Cleeks GC Captain Martin Kaymer shot a even-par 71 and is tied for 9th at 3 under. This despite the fact that he was stung in the hand by multiple bees during Saturday’s round. “I put my hand right into the nest,” Kaymer said. “It was swollen so I got some ice. It’s good now, though.”
Majesticks GC Captain Lee Westwood has missed just two fairways in the first two rounds – both of them on Saturday. Westwood hit all 14 fairways in Friday’s opening round. He leads the field in fairways hit. Westwood is tied for sixth after shooting his second consecutive 69.
Hy Flyers Captain Phil Mickelson shot a 2-over 73. It was his best score since shooting a 69 in the opening round of the LIV Golf Invitational London.
Graeme McDowell (Cleeks GC) celebrated his 43rd birthday by shooting a 3-over 74. McDowell was given a birthday cake and well-wishes from his competitors while on the practice range before the round.
The fans were definitely a lot more energized today. I thought they were great yesterday, and they seemed to go next level today.
Henrik Stenson (on a 54-hole event versus 72 holes):
I think the mindset as a player, you've just got to try and be a little bit quicker out of the box. Not that you don't want to do that on a 72-hole tournament, but when there's 54 holes, you can't just like cruise for a day and not get going because then you don't have enough holes to make that ground up.
It seems like I've been putting downhill all week. Even the uphill putts feel like they're downhill. I don't know. The greens are fast
PERFORMANCE STATS RD. 2
Driving distance – Phachara Khongwatmai, 324.3 yards avg.
Longest drive – Phachara Khongwatmai, 368 yards (9th hole)
Driving accuracy – Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, 86% (12 of 14 fairways)
Greens in regulation – Jason Kokrak, 89% (16 of 18 greens)
Scrambling – Carlos Ortiz, Talor Gooch, 100% (6 of 6)
Fewest putts – Talor Gooch, 23 putts
Putts in GIR – Talor Gooch, 1.50
Eagles made – Henrik Stenson (8th hole), Patrick Reed (15th hole), Phachara Khongwatmai (8th), Kevin Na (8th hole)
Bogey-free round – Talor Gooch (64)
Easiest hole – 590-yard par-5 8th, which played to a stroke average of 4.542.
Hardest hole – 460-yard par-4 3rd, which played to a stroke average of 4.396.
Course stroke average – Rd. 1 (70.750). Rd. 2 (72.979). Par is 71.