Garcia among five co-leaders at LIV Golf Chicago

golf22 September 2023 23:08| © Reuters
Sergio Garcia © Gallo Images

Sergio Garcia won't be playing in the Ryder Cup next week, but he was on top of his game in the first round of LIV Golf Chicago, shooting a 5-under 66 to be part of a five-way tie for the lead Friday in Sugar Grove, Ill.

The Spaniard is tied atop the leaderboard with South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, Australian Jediah Morgan, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia and Anirban Lahiri of India.

A whopping 10 players are one stroke behind at 4-under 67, including Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Patrick Reed. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are part of a group at 3-under 68.

Garcia, the captain of Fireballs GC, had three birdies early in his round at Rich Harvest Farms before making eagle at the 626-yard, par-5 10th hole.

He briefly led by himself at 6 under when he birdied the par-3 15th hole, but he made his only bogey of the day at the very next hole and parred the rest of the way.

"With the conditions the course is quite gettable," Garcia said. "I'm actually surprised there wasn't a couple lower scores today. I could have shot one of those, obviously.

"But yeah, it still is the kind of course that you still have to hit the ball well to score. It's a good mix, but if you strike the ball nicely, it feels like you can make a lot of birdies."

Morgan piled up seven birdies but had a double bogey in the middle of his round. He is playing to keep his LIV Golf card as the season winds down; he ranks just 46th in the season standings out of 50 fulltime golfers.

"I don't know, I just look at it in the face really. I know where I am and everyone keeps reminding me where I am, so it's pretty hard to get away from it, so there's no point in me trying to act like it's not there in my head. It's obviously there," Morgan said.

"But I know if I play well enough, put myself in the position I think to make putts for birdie, then that's really all you can do."

Oosthuizen, captain of Stinger GC, is the only co-leader who stayed bogey-free Friday.

His all-South African group also leads the team leaderboard. Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel (4 under) and Dean Burmester (4 under) have Stinger up to 13 under, one ahead of Fireballs and Crushers GC.

Stinger is third in the season-long team standings at 156 points, behind 4Aces GC and Torque GC. They are battling for position in the Team Championship next month in Miami.

"You know, the top spot going into Miami doesn't really mean a lot. You still need to play match play on that Saturday then, and anything can happen," Oosthuizen said. "The bye I think is more important sort of to know that you're only starting on Saturday and you can prepare a little bit more. But it would be nice to chase them down, as well."