BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Dustin Johnson, LIV Golf’s reigning Individual Champion, started the 2023 season slower than expected after enduring a minor back injury early in the year.
The 4Aces GC captain is now rounding into form in front of record crowds at LIV Golf Tulsa.
Johnson posted his second consecutive 7-under 63 in the second round to take a two-shot lead at 14 under over Stinger GC’s Branden Grace going into Sunday’s final day at Cedar Ridge Country Club. The 4Aces also moved ahead of the Stingers on the team leaderboard by one shot.
Saturday’s sellout crowd was the largest single-day attendance for a LIV Golf event in the U.S. Another strong crowd is expected Sunday, which should make LIV Golf Tulsa the most-attended event of the eight played in the U.S. since LIV Golf’s debut in 2022.
They’ve seen a return to form for Johnson, as the back-to-back 63s are his best scores of the year.
“I saw a lot of good things in Australia and Singapore,” the two-time major winner said of the previous two LIV Golf tournaments. “I was playing well. Just didn’t get a lot out of my rounds. … I knew it was coming. I was seeing a lot of good things.”
Johnson will be seeking his second individual tournament title on Sunday, having won last year in Boston with a dramatic eagle putt in a playoff. He’ll be in the final group with Grace for the first time since last year’s tournament in Portland, the first LIV event played in the U.S. The South African shot a 7-under 65 at Pumpkin Ridge to rally from two strokes down to win and will need a similar performance at Cedar Ridge.
Grace led for the majority of the second round before suffering his first two bogeys of the week at holes 15 and 16. Meanwhile, Johnson birdied both holes, a four-shot swing that gave Johnson the lead.
“I’m definitely going to have to go deep tomorrow,” said Grace, at 12 under after following his record-setting 61 on Friday with a 3-under 67. “I’m not saying it’s going to take a 9-under or something like that, but if I can just play well, give myself some chances and then take it from there.”
The third member of the final group is RangeGoats GC captain Bubba Watson, who is at 10 under after shooting a 64 on Saturday, his best round in his eight worldwide starts in 2023 since returning from knee surgery. Watson was 1 over early in his round before finding his rhythm and making seven birdies in his last 13 holes.
“I started off struggling today, but then I fought hard coming back,” said Watson, who joined LIV Golf last season as a non-playing captain. “I want to feel those nerves tomorrow. I want to get in contention again.”
Other team captains are lurking. Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau moved into solo fourth after his best round of the year, a 63 left him at 9 under. He’ll be in a group with Ripper GC Captain Cameron Smith, who shot 68 and is at 8 under. HyFlyers GC member Brendan Steele is tied with Smith after shooting 69.
“Yesterday was a struggle but excited with where my game is trending and heading,” DeChambeau said. “Pumped about that.”
The team competition will be equally compelling, with five teams within eight shots of the 4Aces’ lead at 26 under. DeChambeau’s Crushers, the winners in Mayakoba, rallied for a third-place finish in Singapore after shooting 20 under in the final round. They’ll start the day just four shots off the pace and will need another big day to catch the 4Aces, the current points leaders.
“Four shots back,” DeChambeau said. “That was the first thing I looked at, compared to my score. That tells you where my head is at.”
Here are the standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Tulsa. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
1. 4ACES GC (-26): Dustin Johnson 63, Peter Uihlein 65, Patrick Reed 67 (Rd. 2 score: -15)
2. STINGER GC (-25): Branden Grace 67, Charl Schwartzel 67, Dean Burmester 68 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
3. CRUSHERS GC (-22): Bryson DeChambeau 63, Charles Howell III 64, Anirban Lahiri 67 (Rd. 2 score: -16)
4. RANGEGOATS GC (-20): Bubba Watson 64, Thomas Pieters 67, Harold Varner III 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)
5. SMASH GC (-19): Brooks Koepka 65, Jason Kokrak 67, Matthew Wolff 68 (Rd. 2 score: -10)
6. RIPPER GC (-18): Jediah Morgan 66, Cameron Smith 68, Marc Leishman 68 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
7. TORQUE GC (-16): Mito Pereira 65, David Puig 68, Joaquin Niemann 70 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
8. FIREBALLS GC (-15): Eugenio Chacarra 65, Abraham Ancer 66, Carlos Ortiz 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)
9. CLEEKS GC (-13): Richard Bland 67, Bernd Wiesberger 67, Martin Kaymer 71 (Rd. 2 score: -5)
10. MAJESTICKS GC (-12): Ian Poulter 68, Henrik Stenson 68, Lee Westwood 69 (Rd. 2 score: -5)
T11. IRON HEADS GC (-11): Danny Lee 64, Kevin Na 66, Scott Vincent 68 (Rd. 2 score: -12)
T11. HYFLYERS GC (-11): Cameron Tringale 66, Brendan Steele 69, James Piot 69 (Rd. 2 score: -6)
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