CHICAGO ROUND 1 RECAP: DJ STAYS HOT, SHOOTS 63; 4 ACES TAKE TEAM LEAD
Written by LIV GOLF STAFF
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Dustin Johnson hasn’t cooled off. Neither has his 4 Aces GC. As a result, both the captain and his team are in familiar territory after Friday’s first round at the LIV Golf Invitational Chicago.
Sitting atop the leaderboard.
Johnson, fresh off his win at the previous LIV Golf event in Boston, shot a bogey-free 9-under 63 to take a three-shot lead at Rich Harvest Farms. It's the lowest score, in relation to par, shot this season in LIV Golf.
Thanks to his low round, 4 Aces GC has a one-shot lead on the team leaderboard as it goes for its fourth consecutive win on American soil.
The other 11 teams are anxious to end the 4 Aces win streak. The all-Australian Punch GC, fueled by captain Cameron Smith’s 6-under 66, are the closest pursuers entering Saturday’s second round
“Hopefully someone can get them this weekend,” said Smith, the closest pursuer to Johnson on the individual leaderboard.
Asked if he’s heard how tired other teams are of the 4 Aces domination, Johnson replied, “No, but I don’t really care, either.”
The main thing he cares about is the quality of his golf game, and right now it appears in top form for the two-time major champ. He has yet to shoot a round over par in his 13 rounds this inaugural LIV Golf season, and his 63 ties his low score. He also shot 63 in the second round of his playoff win in Boston.
“The game is in really good form,” Johnson said. “It's been solid day in and day out, so seeing a lot of the same shots and very consistent. That's always what I'm looking for, just consistency in the flights and in what I'm trying to do, and obviously right now it's going pretty well.”
Although Rich Harvest Farms is unfamiliar to most players in the field, it didn’t stop Johnson from figuring out the 7,425-yard layout. But he wasn’t the only one.
Smith, the Open Champion making his second start since joining LIV Golf, also played bogey-free golf. In Boston, he was one shot out of the playoff won by Johnson.
“This is my first time here,” Smith said. “I love it. I think the course is great. I think it played great today, firming up a little bit.”
Matthew Wolff of Hy Flyers GC is in solo third after his 67. His round was highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 18th.
In the final round at Boston, Wolff struggled on the greens and fell out of contention as his frustration increased. He was glad to see an improvement in his putting Friday.
“I've always really been a good putter, so when I don't putt well, it's pretty frustrating, and sometimes I can do a little better job of controlling my anger and emotions,” Wolff said. “It just means that I care. It just means that I'm competing and I love being out here and it doesn't mean any less to me. It means more, to be honest.”
Behind Wolff, there is a four-way tie for fourth at 4 under. The group includes Bedminster winner Henrik Stenson – returning from his WD due to vertigo in Boston – along with his Majesticks captain Lee Westwood, Punch GC’s Matt Jones and Crushers GC’s Charles Howell III.
Majesticks GC is in third place in the team standings behind 4 Aces and Punch. Hy Flyers GC and Crushers GC are tied for fourth, just one stroke out of the money positions.
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 Rich Harvest Farms:
1. 4 Aces GC, 11 under
Dustin Johnson 63
2. Punch GC, 10 under
Cameron Smith 66
3. Majesticks GC, 8 under
Henrik Stenson 68
T-4. Hy Flyers GC, 7 under
Matthew Wolff 67
T-4. Crushers GC, 7 under
Charles Howell III 68
6. Stinger GC, 6 under
Louis Oosthuizen 69
T-7. Fireballs GC, 3 under
Carlos Ortiz 70
T-7. Torque GC, 3 under
Scott Vincent 70
T-7. Cleeks GC, 3 under
Laurie Canter 70
T-7. Smash GC, 3 under
Brooks Koepka 70
11. Iron Heads GC, 2 under
Sadom Kaewkanjana 70
12. Niblicks GC, 1 under
Hudson Varner III 70
Dustin Johnson (on Rich Harvest Farms): “There's trouble on all the holes, but obviously the reachable par-5s you need to take advantage of, but you've got to hit it in the fairway just so you can control the golf ball coming into these greens, and I did a really good job of that today.”
Phil Mickelson (on his Hy Flyers GC): “We have Matt (Wolff) who's been playing really, really well, and myself, Bernd (Wiesberger) and Cameron (Tringale) have not given him the support that he needs. We have to do our job, and if we do our job, the Hy Flyers are going to make a run at the Aces. I think we have the talent and the firepower to do it.”
Cameron Smith (on the free mullets for charity at the Fan Village): “I saw a few out there myself. It was good to see a few guys getting clipped, and obviously a good cause for charity ($1,000 is donated for each mullet cut). Yeah, hopefully we get a lot more over the weekend.”
Matthew Wolff (on the course): “I definitely feed off the energy, and I think it's a lot of fun. Like Phil was saying, it was kind of an updated version and brings more fun, but we're also focusing on golf and we're also trying to compete. Just because it's LIV doesn't mean -- the competition is still there. It's at the highest level. DJ shot nine deep today. That's a heck of a round.”
Driving accuracy – Matt Jones, Sadom Kaewkanjana, Carlos Ortiz, Wade Ormsby, 93% (13 of 14 fairways)
Driving distance – Peter Uihlein, 330.3-yard average
Greens in regulation – Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Sadom Kaewkanjana, 89% (16 of 18 greens)
Fewest putts – David Puig, 21 putts
Most birdies – Dustin Johnson, 9
Easiest hole – 522-yard par-5 18th, which played to a stroke average of 4.354.
Hardest hole –480-yard par-4 17th, which played to a stroke average of 4.458.
Course stroke average: Rd. 1 (71.188). Par is 72.