ROUND 2 RECAP: JOHNSON, ORTIZ SHARE LEAD; 4 ACES GC AHEAD BY 4 STROKES

Written by LIV Golf

Dustin Johnson has his 4 Aces GC in position to claim the team trophy at the LIV Golf Invitational Portland. The two-time major winner also will be chasing the individual title in Saturday’s final round at Pumpkin Ridge.

Johnson and LIV Golf newcomer Carlos Ortiz share the lead at 8 under through 36 holes, two shots clear of Branden Grace. Justin Harding is another shot back at 5 under. Major winners Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed are among a group of five players at 4 under.

The 4 Aces GC, captained by Johnson, leads the team competition at 15 under, four shots ahead of Stinger GC, the all-South African team that won the team trophy at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational London. Crushers GC, Torque GC and Fireballs GC are tied for third at 8 under. Only the top three teams receive prize money from the $5 million team purse, while $20 million is on the line for individual play.

Johnson, playing for the first time in the Portland area, put on a show Friday during a six-hole stretch when he posted five birdies (and one bogey) en route to shooting his second consecutive 4-under 68. He felt the positive vibes from the fans during a sunshine-filled Friday.

“A lot of these fans, they haven’t seen any of the pros really play, especially not in their area,” said Johnson, seeking the 29th win in his professional career. “Obviously, they’re excited to be out here. Obviously, it’s a great event. I think LIV has done a great job putting on the event. The fan experience, I think, is unbelievable.”

Ortiz, meanwhile, is more of a familiar face for Portland golf fans. He won a developmental tour event at Pumpkin Ridge in 2014, although the composite course being used this week is different than the course he played.

He and Johnson were in the same group on Friday, with Ortiz holding his own with a 3-under 69 that included a long birdie putt on the final hole to gain a share of the lead.

“He was playing great,” Ortiz said of Johnson. “I don’t know why, but when somebody is playing good in your group, it’s easy for everybody else to start catching up.”

Grace finished third in London thanks to a final-round 65, which tied for the low round of the week.  On Friday, starting his round on the second hole during the shotgun start, Grace finished with four consecutive birdies to move into solo third with his second consecutive 69.

That fast finish also helped close the gap in the team competition, improving Stinger GC’s chances to repeat. Having cruised to victory in London, winning by 14 shots, Stinger GC’s challenge in Portland is much more difficult.

“Nice to finish with four in a row to put myself back,” Grace said. “Obviously with the team, these boys (4 Aces GC) were running away with it. At one stage, I think we were 7 or 8 shots behind, so kind of have to dig deep and hope your other guys are making some birdies as well.”

With the top three scores counting for each team in the final round, Johnson knows that a volatile leaderboard is a possibility, and that no 5-shot lead is safe.

“It’s fun. It just adds a new aspect to it,” Johnson said. “Obviously, the guys, we all want to play well. We all want to win. And definitely we’d like to get a team win.”

Saturday’s final round at Pumpkin Ridge begins at 1:15 p.m. local time. The final threesome of Johnson, Ortiz and Grace tee off at 1:26 p.m. The round will be streamed live on YouTube, Facebook and livgolf.com.

DIFFERENT CADDIES, SAME FORM FOR GRACE

South African Branden Grace is doing some caddie juggling this summer. It doesn’t seem to be harming his game.

During the LIV Golf Invitational London, he used Stingers GC teammate Louis Oosthuizen’s former caddie. With Wynand Stander on the bag, Grace finished third to claim a spot on the podium with two other Stingers, winner Charl Schwartzel and runner-up Hennie du Plessis.

This week in Portland, Grace is using Cliff Botha, who regularly caddies for Miguel Angel Jimenez. Through two rounds, Grace again is in position to finish on the podium, as he heads into the final round in solo third.

At the next LIV Golf Invitational in Bedminster, Grace will use Ernie Els’ former caddie Ricky Roberts.

“I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I need to find a guy to stick with,” Grace said. “I’m just testing some guys out.”

Given the prize money at stake in LIV Golf events, along with the top-notch treatment that caddies receive during competition weeks, Grace isn’t lacking for suitors.

“I think they’re all smiling when they come, when they get a call,” Grace said.

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 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 second round at Pumpkin Ridge:

1. 4 Aces GC, 15 under (Dustin Johnson 68, Patrick Reed 68)

2. Stinger GC, 11 under (Branden Grace 69, Louis Oosthuizen 69)

T-3. Torque GC, 8 under (Jinichiro Kozuma 69, Ryosuke Kinoshita 71)

T-3. Fireballs GC, 8 under (Carlos Ortiz 69, Sergio Garcia 71)

T-3. Crushers GC, 8 under (Justin Harding 67, Bryson DeChambeau 69)

6. Iron Heads GC, 5 under (Sihwan Kim 68, Kevin Na 68)

7. Smash GC, 3 under (Brooks Koepka 70, Adrian Otaegui 72)

8. Majesticks GC, 1 under (Sam Horsfield 68, Lee Westwood 71)

T-9. Punch GC, Even (Matt Jones 72, Blake Windred 74)

T-9. Cleeks GC, Even (Martin Kaymer 72, Scott Vincent 74)

11. Niblicks GC, 1 over (Graeme McDowell 71, Travis Smyth 71)

12. Hy Flyers GC, 4 over (Matthew Wolff 71, Bernd Wiesberger 74)

PLAYER NOTES

Brooks Koepka had a wild ride Friday. Starting his round on No. 2, he double-bogeyed the par-3 third, then made five birdies in his next 13 holes. He eagled the par-5 17th to challenge for the lead before finishing bogey-double bogey to shoot a 2-under 70. That leaves him at 4 under.

Dustin Johnson led the field with eight birdies made on Friday. Through two rounds, he had 13 birdies, tied with Jinichiro Kozuma for most birdies.

Of the top 16 players on the leaderboard, the only player who failed to break par was Pat Perez, who shot a 1-over 73.

Starting the day in last place in the team competition, Majesticks GC moved into solo eighth thanks mostly to Sam Horsfield’s 4-under 68. Captain Lee Westwood chipped in with a 71. Majesticks finished third in the team competition in London.

World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson shot his second consecutive 3-over 75. Mickelson is putting better than he did in London after his four-month layoff, but he’s struggling in Portland to find fairways. He’s hit just 13 of 30 fairways through the first two rounds.

Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, making his pro debut in Portland, shot a 1-over 73 – three strokes better than his opening round of 76. Lopez-Chacarra opened his round Friday with three straight bogeys before settling in.

PLAYER QUOTEBOARD

Dustin Johnson: “All day, I hit it really well … Really happy with the way I’m swinging. All in all, I’m very pleased with how I played.”

Branden Grace: “It’s a proper golf course. Anything can happen around here. As soon as you start pushing, things can go the other way very quickly. It almost kind of gives you that little bit of a U.S. Open feel, just the rough being up a little bit, trying to hit your spots and just trying to make birdies when they come your way.”

PERFORMANCE STATS – ROUND 2

Average drive distance (drives recorded on hole Nos. 1 and 17) – Bryson DeChambeau, 352.0 yards.

Longest drive – Brooks Koepka, 363 yards, 17th hole.

Driving accuracy – Scott Vincent, Abraham Ancer, Sam Horsfield, 80% (12 of 15 fairways).

Greens in regulation – Talor Gooch, 88.89% (16 of 18 greens).

Scrambling – Louis Oosthuizen, 100% (4 of 4).

Fewest putts – Justin Harding, 21 putts.

Putts in GIR – Justin Harding, 1.11.

Eagles made – Richard Bland (17th hole), Justin Harding (1st hole), Brooks Koepka (17th hole)

Bogey-free round: Louis Oosthuizen (69).

HOLE STATS

Easiest hole – 630-yard par-5 1st, which played to a stroke average of 4.688.

Hardest hole –495-yard par-4 13th, which played to a stroke average of 4.417.

Course stroke average: Rd. 1 (73.542). Rd. 2 (72.479). Par is 72.

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