The LIV Golf International Series has arrived, and players teed off at 9:15 am ET (2:15 pm local) in a shotgun start to kick off the controversial new tour. We’ll have live updates throughout the first day, so check back for more highlights, news and analysis from LIV Golf’s first day.
Day 1 Concludes With Schwartzel in Lead
Charl Schwartzel closed his opening round with a birdie to grab a one-shot lead. Schwartzel is a former Masters champion and one of 17 current or former PGA Tour members competing in this event. LIV events are 54 holes, so two rounds remain.
Hennie Du Plessis shot 4 under and is alone in second place, one back.
Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were grouped together, and they shot matching one-under 69s to trail Schwartzel by four shots.
“Other than a couple loose drives, I felt like I hit my irons really good. The golf course is tough and conditions are really tough,” Johnson said afterward on the broadcast.
Here’s a look at the Day 1 final leaderboard:
Who is Phachara Khongwatmai?
The 48-man field at the LIV Golf opener has some players familiar to most golf fans but many more that likely aren’t.
One of the latter would be the leader at 4 under par with three holes to go at Centurion Club, Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai. The 23-year-old is ranked No. 133 in the world and a regular on the Asian Tour.
In 2013 at age 14, he became the youngest winner of a professional tournament when he won the Sing Hua Hin Open on the All Thailand Golf Tour. Three years later he played in the British Open at age 17, missing the cut.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series is sanctioned by the Asian Tour. LIV Golf Investments, the company launched last October with the idea of supporting golf throughout the world, has committed $300 million to the Asian Tour for a series of 10 events per year meant to help grow the tour. The Public Investment Fund, an autonomous wealth fund administered by the government of Saudi Arabia, is the main shareholder of LIV Golf Investments.
Three players from Thailand are in the field as well as three from Japan.
How the LIV Broadcast Looks and Sounds
As with any new league, plenty of curiosity surrounded where and how LIV Golf would be broadcasted.
For the opener outside London, LIV Golf is broadcasted on its own website, YouTube and Facebook. And it looks like… a golf tournament.
The presentation includes a constantly updating leaderboard on the left side of the screen, with players and their team logos. At the top left is the number of holes remaining, as with a shotgun start all the players finish at roughly the same time.
American golf fans who complain about broadcasts with too many commercial breaks, take note — there are no sponsor obligations this week with the new series, hence no commercials. During the opening-round broadcast there have been virtually no features or other segments to take away from the golf course.
As for the commentary, the main booth has longtime Premier League soccer broadcaster Arlo White, who is English, along with American Jerry Foltz, most recently of Golf Channel and Hong Kong native Dom Boulet, the voice of the Asian Tour.
Dustin Double Bogeys the 7th Hole
It’s not all smiles at the Centurion Club. On the par-4 7th hole, Dustin Johnson blew his drive out of bounds to the right and flung his tee in disgust.
He made a double bogey on the hole to fall from 1 under to 1 over on the round, tied for 15th in the event.
Johnson is playing alongside Phil Mickelson — LIV Golf put its two biggest names together and started them on the 1st tee — and Mickelson is also 1 over in his first pro golf since the Saudi International in early February.
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How the Team Format Works
One of LIV Golf’s major selling points is its four-man team format. With 12 holes remaining in the round — how LIV tracks time given the shotgun start — the Crushers GC team was leading at 4 under.
Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand was at 4 under, leading the Crushers as well as the entire event.
The team score is calculated with the best two scores on a team for the first two rounds, and the three best scores in the third and final round.
The top three teams earn shares of a $5 million prize pool, with $3 million for first, $1.5 million for second and $500,000 for third split between the four players. So, in theory, one player could have a poor event but three good teammates and get a nice payday.
So, What Are They Wearing?
If you’re just tuning in, you’ll notice that most of the players won’t look any different sartorially than in other tournaments. Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, for example, are in their usual threads with the Adidas logo; Garcia with an Adidas hat and Johnson a TaylorMade logo hat.
Players’ LIV Golf teams are represented through the caddies, who have team names and logos on their vests.
As for Phil Mickelson, who lost sponsors in the wake of his comments in February about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” and the Saudi-backed league, he’s wearing a black hat with his own jumping-Phil logo and a black vest with the Augusta National Golf Club logo.
Play Begins at LIV Golf Opener
Dustin Johnson’s opening shot was shown live on the broadcast, and he split the fairway. Phil Mickelson is grouped with DJ, and he also hit the fairway with his opening shot on No. 1. And so begins a new golf league.
The Broadcast is Live
In the opening moments of the webcast, Greg Norman joins the booth and says, “I’m excited to bring free agency to golf. The shotgun start is moments away.
A Ride To the Shotgun Start
As anyone who has ever played in a charity golf tournament or big event at their local club knows, the transportation for a shotgun start is controlled chaos. Usually it entails an army of golf carts all launched at once from the clubhouse.
LIV Golf took it a step further by grabbing a fleet of London black cabs to transport players all over Centurion Club.
LIV Golf also dropped a hype video on Thursday, narrated by Dennis Quaid.
Tee Times and Groupings for Day 1 at LIV Golf
Here are the groups for Day 1, along with the new team names. Everyone will tee off at the same time in a shotgun start:
- Hole 1 Dustin Johnson – 4 Aces GC Scott Vincent – Smash GC Phil Mickelson – Hy Flyers GC
- Hole 2 Sergio Garcia – Fireballs GC Talor Gooch – Torque GC Pablo Larrazabal – Cleeks GC
- Hole 3 Charl Schwartzel – Stinger GC Graeme McDowell – Crushers GC Wade Ormsby – Punch GC
- Hole 4 Sam Horsfield – Majesticks GC Sadom Kaewkanjana – Iron Heads GC Andy Ogletree – Torque GC
- Hole 5 Richard Bland – Crushers GC Ratchanon Chantananuwat (a) – Hy Flyers GC Ryosuke Kinoshita – Punch GC
- Hole 6 Jediah Morgan – Fireballs GC Ian Snyman – Cleeks GC Oliver Fisher – Niblicks GC
- Hole 7 Chase Koepka – Hy Flyers GC Turk Pettit – Niblicks GC Kevin Yuan – 4 Aces GC
- Hole 8 Itthipat Buranatanyarat – Smash GC Hennie Du Plessis – Stinger GC James Piot (a) – Fireballs GC
- Hole 10 Jinichiro Kozuma – Smash GC Phachara Khongwatmai – Crushers GC JC Ritchie – Cleeks GC
- Hole 12 David Puig (a) – Fireballs GC Oliver Bekker – 4 Aces GC Viraj Madappa – Iron Heads GC
- Hole 13 Peter Uihlein – Niblicks GC Adrian Otaegui – Torque GC Blake Windred – Punch GC
- hole 14 Laurie Canter – Majestic GC Martin Kaymer – Cleeks GC Hudson Swafford – Torque GC
- Hole 15 Shaun Norris – 4 Aces GC Travis Smyth – Crushers GC Hideto Tanihara – Iron Heads GC
- hole 16 Branden Grace – Stinger GC Sihwan Kim – Smash GC Matt Jones – Punch GC
- hole 17 Lee Westwood – Majestics GC Bernd Wiesberger – Niblicks GC Justin Harding – Hy Flyers GC
- hole 18 Louis Oosthuizen – Stinger GC Kevin Na – Iron Heads GC Ian Poulter – Majestics GC
What is the LIV Golf 2022 Calendar?
LIV Golf debuts in London, and there will be seven more events, staged in both the US and abroad, through the rest of the year. Here’s the full lineup:
- June 9-11, Centurion Club, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans
- June 30-July 2, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, North Plains, Ore.
- July 29-31. Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, NJ
- Sept. 2-4, The International, Bolton, Mass.
- Sept. 16-18, Rich Harvest Farms, Sugar Grove, Ill.
- Oct. 7-9, Stonehill Golf Club, Bangkok
- Oct. 14-16, Royal Greens Golf Club, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Oct. 28-30, Trump National Doral, Miami
Show Me the Money
If the broadcast has not made it abundantly clear what the players are competing for this week, here’s a quick primer.
Of the 12 teams competing, only the top three will earn shares of the $5 million purse — first place splits $3 million four ways ($750,000 per player), second place splits $1.5 million ($375,000 per player) and third place earns $500,000 ($125,000 per player).
Individually, $4 million will go to the winner, followed by $2.125 million (second), $1.5 million (third) and $1.05 million (fourth). Further down, 12th will earn $450,000, 24th gets $168,000 and dead last earns $120,000.
At best, a player could earn $4.75 million come Saturday evening. At worst, a player leaves with, well, $120,000.