Jun 10th, 2022
Schwartzel and du Plessis lead LIV Golf Invitational
South African duo and Stinger GC teammates out front at Centurion Club
Photography: LIV Golf / Getty Images
Schwartzel shot a five-under 65 on the par-70 course, blistering Centurion’s back nine in six-under 30 to take the first-round lead. Du Plessis posted three birdies in a four-hole stretch early in his round to shoot four-under 66 and is solo second.
Not only did the two South Africans set the first-round pace in the individual stroke-play competition, but their combined efforts also allowed Stinger GC to take a commanding 6-shot lead in the team competition
The 48 players were divided into four-man teams during Tuesday’s live draft. Stinger – a team captained by Louis Oosthuizen, who drafted all South Africans – is at 9 under. Hy Flyers GC and Crushers GC are the closest pursuers at 3 under.
“It was very interesting,” Schwartzel said of the team aspect. “At one stage I saw three of our teammates, including (du Plessis) and Branden Grace up at the top. You know, just a little bit of a different aspect to what we used to play. Now you've got individual and team.”
Schwartzel said on his 17th hole of his round (hole No. 1), he had a 5-foot putt for bogey and thought about the importance on the Stinger’s score.
“I knew my score was counting for the team,” he said. “I was more worried to make it for my team than I was worried for myself. Yeah, we were conscious of it and you could see the leaderboards.”
Du Plessis said he also was aware of how well Stinger GC was playing.
“You can see from the first hole, you can see what's really going on,” he said. “That's the beauty of this format. You can see what's going on and it's all happening at the same time, so it's pretty exciting.”
Australian Scott Vincent (Smash GC) and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai (Crushers GC) each shot 67, while South Africans Branden Grace (Stinger) and Justin Harding (Hy Flyers) shot 68.
Multiple major winners Phil Mickelson (Hy Flyers GC captain) and Dustin Johnson (4 Aces GC captain) were another stroke back at 69 along with England’s Sam Horsfield and Laurie Canter (both Majestics GC).
World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, a six-time major winner, appeared in his first competitive golf event since February.
Starting his round on the 1st hole, Mickelson played his first nine holes in two-over before rallying on his back nine with three birdies in a four-hole stretch. He shot a one-under 69, the best score for Hy Flyers GC, the team he captains.
“I really enjoyed today,” said the 51-year-old Mickelson. “It was fun for me to get back out playing. I struck the ball really well and didn't putt very well. I really struggled with the putter … the first six, seven holes but I played really well and fought back after a double on 9 to shoot one-under and get myself right in it on the first day.”
“With the short format it's important to have that good first day,” Mickelson added. “It's harder; you don't have as many days to catch up, but I needed a good day. I'm playing well and I feel like having my first competitive round now being back after a few months, I feel like I'm ready to relax and put it together and let it happen and not force it and really have a good round tomorrow. I feel like I'm playing well, and the putter started to feel better the second half of the round.”
Mickelson described the atmosphere at the Centurion Club as having “great energy.”
“It seemed awfully fun,” Mickelson said. “The people were terrific, and it was fun to hit some good shots and get in a competitive frame of mind again. I really enjoyed it.”
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. The best two scores in Round 1, the best two scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 will combine to produce the team score.
The total team prize money is $5 million, with the winning team dividing $3 million, second place dividing $1.5 million and third place dividing $500,000 among its four team members.
Here is the leaderboard and the counting scores for Thursday’s first round:
1. STINGER GC (-9) – Charl Schwartzel 65, Hennie du Plessis 66
T-2. HY FLYERS GC (-3) – Justin Harding 68, Phil Mickelson 69
T-2. CRUSHERS GC (-3) – Phachara Khongwatmai 67, Peter Uihlein 70
4. MAJESTICKS GC (-2) – Sam Horsfield 69, Laurie Canter 69
5. 4 ACES GC (-1) – Dustin Johnson 69, Oliver Bekker 70
6. SMASH GC (E) – Scott Vincent 67, Jinichiro Kozuma 73
T-7. TORQUE GC (+1) – Adrian Otaegui 70, Talor Gooch 71
T-7. IRON HEADS GC (+1) – Hideto Tanihara 70, Viraj Madappa 71
9. FIREBALLS GC (+2) – Sergio Garcia 71, James Piot 71
10. CLEEKS GC (+3) – Ian Snyman 71, Pablo Larrazabal 72
11. PUNCH GC (+4) – Wade Ormsby 71, Ryosuke Kinoshita 73
12. NIBLICKS GC (+7) – Oliver Fisher 73, Graeme McDowell 74