Polarising golf beast Bryson DeChambeau stunned with a 360m 6-iron first shot of the day as Aussie Cameron Smith sunk a pair of two-metre birdie putts to card a four-under 68 to move into the lead with one round to go of the LIV Golf event in Chicago.
As easy as Dustin Johnson made it look in the opening round, day two at Rich Harvest Farms was such a struggle that he shot over par for the first time in the 14 rounds he has played in the Saudi-funded series.
Johnson was lucky the deficit to Smith is only two shots – he came up well short of the green on the par-4 17th and had to make an lengthy par putt, while Smith took the lead for the first time with his 2m birdie putt.
On their final hole at the par-5 18th, Johnson’s approach took a hard hop over the green. After a free drop from the grandstand, he made a weak chip and missed his birdie putt.
Smith meanwhile was on the other side of the green, lagged a 20m putt to about 2m and holed that for another birdie.
They will be joined in the lead group Sunday by Peter Uihlein – the former US Amateur champion who had the low round of the breezy day with a 66. That left Uihlein only three shots behind going into the last day.
Laurie Canter (68) and Charl Schwartzel (69), who won the first LIV Golf Invitational outside London, were four shots behind. The group five back included Lee Westwood, Charles Howell III and DeChambeau, who with his opening tee sot of the day on the 18th hit a monster 320m six-iron.
Smith won the British Open at St. Andrews and made nearly $3.7 million. A victory Sunday would be worth close to $6 million.
“It was tricky out there today,” Smith said. “I got a couple of breaks and DJ didn’t quite make the putts he usually does.”
Phil Mickelson looked as though he might get a round under par until he made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and shot 74 to fall 12 shots behind.
Mickelson spoke Friday about the need for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to work together. The PGA Tour has suspended players for playing in the Saudi-backed series without getting a conflicting-event release.
Mickelson is among seven players – along with LIV Golf – who has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.
“The PGA Tour for the last 20 or 30 years have had all the best players in the world. That will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay, and this type of divisive talk is doing nobody good,” Mickelson said. “The best solution is for us to come together.”
I think both are needed for the game of golf. Both are good for the game of golf. The inclusion of LIV Golf in the ecosystem of the golf world is necessary,” said Mickelson, a chief recruiter in the early stages for LIV Golf.
“As soon as that happens and we all start working together, that’s going to be a really positive thing for everyone.”
In the team competition, Johnson’s four-man squad had a one-shot lead over Smith’s team, with Uihlein’s great round helping put his team — Brooks Koepka is captain — two shots behind.
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