Carlos Ortiz shot a five-under 67 to take the first-round lead at LIV Golf Invitational Portland on Thursday, while South Africa’s Branden Grace carded a “solid” 69.
One stroke behind at four under is two-time Major winner Dustin Johnson, while three golfers are another stroke back at 3 under – Grace, Hideto Tanihara and Pat Perez.
Thanks to Johnson and Perez, 4 Aces GC leads the team competition at seven under. Two strokes back in second place is Stinger GC (five under), the winning team at the inaugural LIV Golf event in London. Torque GC and Fireballs GC are tied for third at four under.
Thursday’s round at Pumpkin Ridge marked the debut of LIV Golf in the United States. The tournament continues for two more rounds, with the individual and team competitions determined after 54 holes, with a purse of $25 million.
Ortiz, starting his round on the 9th hole in the shotgun start, opened with three birdies in his first four holes. He gave two strokes back with bogeys at the 14th and 15th holes. He then played bogey-free golf with four birdies for the remainder of his round.
Johnson, who tied for seventh in London, suffered his only bogey of the day on his opening hole, the 18th. He bounced back with a birdie at the par-five 1st but faced potential disaster on his final hole after an errant tee shot at the 17th landed by the adjacent 11th fairway. He recovered with a blind second shot over the trees to save par.
Perez, like Ortiz, made his LIV Golf debut on Thursday, as Johnson brought him in to be a member of 4 Aces GC, which also includes Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch.
With the top two scores counting for each team in the first two rounds (top three scores count in the final round), Perez was happy to contribute.
“I think I’m feeling more about the team than the other guys just because I’m not the best player, I’m the fourth guy on the team,” Perez said. “For me, I really want to play well for Dustin. That’s kind of my thing. So I have a little more pressure because he brought me out.”
Grace produced the lowest score (65) in the final round in London to claim the third-place podium spot, and he carried that momentum over to Thursday. He opened with a birdie at the 11th, suffered consecutive bogeys, then reeled off three consecutive birdies starting at the 15th hole to get his round back on track.
“Played really solid,” said Grace, a member of the all-South African Stinger GC. “I made some really good birdies on very tough holes, which was nice. When I hit a good shot, I managed to pull it off by making the putt.”
– Report from LIV Golf website