LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz shared the second-round lead in the LIV Golf Series stop in Portland on Friday (July 1) as players jumping to the breakaway circuit continued to face criticism.
Johnson, the former world No. 1 whose two Major titles include the 2020 Masters, briefly threatened to make it a runaway before three late bogeys saw him settle for a four-under par 68 and an eight-under total at Pumpkin Ridge.
He’ll go into the final round of the 54-hole, shotgun start event neck and neck with overnight leader Ortiz, who birdied the final hole to cap a 69.
They are two strokes ahead of South African Branden Grace, who also signed for a 69.
“I’m really happy with the way I’m swinging it,” said Johnson, who at 17th in the world is the highest-ranked player to risk the wrath of the US PGA Tour and make the jump to the lucrative new circuit.
“Tomorrow I just need to go and do the same thing, just drive in the fairway.”
Johnson made his LIV debut in the inaugural event near London in June while Mexico’s Ortiz is playing for the first time.
Ortiz won his lone US PGA Tour title at the Houston Open in 2020, joined the list of players suspended by the US circuit after teeing off in the upstart Saudi-backed series.
The DP World Tour has also sanctioned members lured by the massive paydays on offer that included a signing bonus and a US$20 million (S$27.9 million) purse for this week’s 48-player field with an additional US$5 million prize money on offer in a team competition.
DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley launched a scathing attack on Friday on players who threatened the tour with legal action unless their sanctions – fines and suspensions – for competing in LIV Golf were rescinded.
Pelley said their demands, made in a letter that was published in The Telegraph, contained inaccuracies and that the players knew “there would be consequences if they chose money over competition.”
Hostility from the established tours and concerns over the human rights record of LIV’s Saudi backers apparently aren’t slowing the upstart circuit.
Golf Digest reported on Friday that the series has accelerated growth plans for next year with 14 events rather than 10 and plans a name change to the LIV Golf League.
The report, citing an unnamed LIV Golf official, said the quick expansion is a product of signing several top US PGA players ahead of this week’s event, including Americans Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Matthew Wolff.