Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson salvage rounds of one-under to finish four shots off leader Charl Schwartzel after stuttering starts to life in Saudi revolution… as Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have days to forget at the inaugural LIV Golf event
- South African Charl Schwartzel leads the inaugural LIV Golf event at five-under
- His Stinger team-mates Hennie du Plessis and Branden Grace had good rounds
- Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson redeemed their rounds to finish four shots off
- But Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell did not have strong starts.
For all the talk of the LIV Golf Series luring away the world’s biggest stars, only two of the so-called big names managed to finish in the red after the opening round of the inaugural event.
Headliners Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson managed to redeem their rounds to beat golf’s biggest cash-grabbers into the ten-man group under par after a stuttering start to the ‘new era of golf’ at the Centurion Club.
Clearly the marquee group, the duo were welcomed to the first tee by a brass band dressed as Grenadier guards and an overhead fly-by but their opening holes did not quite live up to the fanfare.
Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson managed to redeem their rounds after stuttering starts
Three birdies in four holes on his back nine allowed Mickelson to drop under par
Neither were at the peak of the game, but three birdies in four holes on his back nine allowed the lefty to drop under par, while Johnson just managed to salvage his round with a birdie on the last as they shot matching one-under 69s – four shots off the leader.
However, the marquee names were outscored by their playing partner, the unheralded Zimbabwean Scott Vincent, who was a shot better on two-under.
Meanwhile, the South Africans enjoyed the Saudi opener as Charl Schwartzel stung the rest of the field.
Charl Schwartzel leads the inaugural LIV Golf event after an opening round of five-under
The former Masters champion carded a five-under par round of 65 to take the lead on the first of three days of golf’s controversial new series.
The leader’s score gives Stinger GC, aka the South African contingency, a boost in the team competition with Hennie du Plessis hot on his heels one shot behind and Branden Grace also in the mix at the top of the leaderboard.
But captain Louis Oosthuizen was joined down the leaderboard by fellow captains Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
Schwartzel’s team-mate and countryman Hennie du Plessis is hot on his heels, one shot behind
Poulter and Lee Westwood were forced to let their younger team-mates Laurie Canter and Sam Horsfield do all the heavy lifting on day one.
Canter and Horsfield were by far the better duo of the all-English Majesticks coming in with a pair of 69s, while veterans Poulter and Westwood finished five-over on the start to the Saudi revolution.
But that won’t concern them too much with $120,000 up for grabs for last place alone, among the obscene and frankly grotesque mega-money prize fun of $25million.
Captain of the all-English Majestics Ian Poulter let his team down with a poor first round
Team-mate Lee Westwood also had a round to forget as the pair finished five-over
As the 48-man field took to the course, golf’s infighting continued over the Saudi rebels from the PGA and DP World Tours.
The PGA Tour seized its moment to rain on the LIV parade as Jay Monahan crashed the party, waiting until the opening tee shots were swung to suspend its members who are competing in the Saudi rebel circuit’s opening event.
While some like Johnson, McDowell, Kevin Na and Sergio Garcia had already informed the tour of their resignation, others could now be embroiled in the legal transatlantic influenza.
Commentator Arlo White did not hold back on the hyperbole at the end of play as he declared: ‘This has been an historic day not just for golf but for sport in general.’
While slightly dramatic, White could have a point. Golf as we know it could have changed from the moment that shotgun went off in St Albans but whether it was for the better as the Saudis insist or the rather-expected worse is to be seen.
More to follow.
A bombshell letter from the PGA Tour announced that all defecting members to rebel Saudi Invitational series have been suspended, in a huge shake-up for golf’s biggest names
DAY ONE SCORES
-5C Schwartzel (RSA)
-4 H Du Plessis (RSA)
-3 S Vincent (ZW), P Khongwatmai (THA)
-2 J Harding (RSA), B Grace (RSA)
-1 D Johnson (USA), P Mickelson (USA), S Horsfield (ENG), L Canter (ENG)
Notable mentions: S Garcia (+1), G McDowell (+4), L Westwood (+5), I Poulter (+5)
RELIVE ALL THE ACTION FROM DAY ONE OF THE LIV GOLF SERIES AT THE CENTURION CLUB IN HERTFORDSHIRE WITH SPORTSMAIL’S LIVE RUNNER