LIV GOLF OKLAHOMA 2023: Grace roars into day one lead with record low 61 first round
Branden Grace holds the record for lowest single-round score in a men’s major. Now he holds the record for lowest score shot in a LIV Golf tournament. The Stinger GC star posted a bogey-free 9-under 61 in Friday’s opening round at LIV Golf Tulsa, breaking the previous low of 62 shared by five players. The record-breaking score gave Grace a two-shot lead over 4Aces GC Captain Dustin Johnson and HyFlyers GC’s Brendan Steele, who each shot 64 at Cedar Ridge Country Club. Grace holds the major record of 62 shot at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Grace played in two majors last year but is not scheduled to compete in any of the majors this season.
“This for us is majors at the moment, so we’ll take it,” Grace said. “… Every time you can shoot low numbers, it’s good – and it’s nice to see the team play well.” Fueled by Grace’s 61, along with 65 from captain Louis Oosthuizen and 67 by Dean Burmester, the all-South African Stingers lead the team competition by six shots at 17 under. Johnson’s 4Aces, the current point leaders in the team standings, are second at 11 under, with Bubba Watson’s RangeGoats GC and Cameron Smith’s Ripper GC another shot back at 10 under.
Talor Gooch, the Oklahoma native and RangeGoats star who has won the last two LIV Golf League tournaments to climb to the top of the Individual Champion standings, shot a 2-under 68 that did not count for his team. But he was pleased to see the big turnout of fans for LIV Golf’s first event in his home state. “It was awesome,” Gooch said. “I had some more nerves early than I expected, but it was a blast out there. ... The pressure I put on my state the last couple of tournaments when I’ve kind of called them out, they came through for us today.” Gooch holds the record for lowest round relative to par, having shot consecutive 10-under 62s in his first win at LIV Golf Adelaide. Grace fell one birdie short of tying that record, but after finishing outside the top 40 in Australia and Singapore and falling into some bad habits, he’s glad to see that last week’s work with his swing coach paid quick dividends. “Just trying to work on the routines, not let bad things sneak to your head at certain times, things like that,” said Grace, winner of the first LIV Golf event held in America last year in Portland. “This was a really good day.”
Johnson had a very interesting day, especially in his front nine with some uncharacteristic wayward shots. He was 1 under through his first 10 holes before posting six birdies coming in. “Through the middle of the round, got a little squirrely, just wasn’t driving it well,” said Johnson, who led the field in fewest putts Friday with 21. “Hit a really bad tee shot on 6 … Then just on the back nine, drove it better and hit it close. I made a couple of putts.”