Dustin Johnson fired a nine-under-par 63 to seize a three-stroke lead after Friday’s opening round of the LIV Golf Chicago Invitational.
The 38-year-old American enjoyed a bogey-free 18 holes to start the 54-hole event at Rich Harvest Farms, with the winner set to collect $4-million from a $25m purse.
“I struck the ball really well,” Johnson said. “I hit it really close. I holed a lot of putts inside 10 feet.”
Australia’s third-ranked Cameron Smith, who won The Open in July at St Andrews, was second on 66.
“I was hitting good putts but they weren’t going in,” Smith said. “At the end, they started going in. I hope I can keep it going.”
American Matthew Wolff was third on five under with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, England’s Lee Westwood, American Charles Howell and Australian Matt Jones sharing fourth on four under.
American Bryson DeChambeau and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are all on three under.
“It was a good day,” Howell said. “The wind picked up. It gets your attention on some of the holes.”
Johnson, coming off his first LIV Golf victory two weeks ago in Boston, started off the 1st tee at the shotgun start and made birdies at the par-five 2nd and par-three 3rd holes.
Johnson, the 2020 Masters and 2016 US Open champion, reeled off four consecutive birdies starting at the 6th and followed by a 10-footer at 7, a 12-footer at 8 and a six-footer at the 9th.
After finding greenside rough at the par-five 11th, Johnson chipped to two feet and tapped in for birdie, then sank a 10-foot birdie putt at 12.
Johnson was threatening the LIV Golf-record low round of 62 by England’s Lee Westwood in the final round in Boston, but had five pars and a five-foot birdie putt at the 15th to close the round.
Johnson’s lowest PGA round was an 11 under 60 in the second round in 2020 at TPC Boston on his way to winning the PGA Northern Trust.
It’s the fifth of eight LIV Golf events this season, with October tournaments in Bangkok, Jeddah and a $50m season-ending team championship at Miami.
© Agence France-Presse