NEW YORK (AFP) — World No. 2 Cameron Smith capped an eventful LIV Golf debut round with a massive eagle putt to lie one shot off the lead at the LIV Golf Invitational Boston on Friday.
Americans Matthew Wolff and Talor Gooch topped the leaderboard at The International Golf Club outside Boston on seven-under-par 63.
Gooch had eight birdies while Wolff seized his share of the lead with the help of two eagles — one of them the first hole-in-one in the history of the Saudi-backed circuit.
Smith shared third on 64 with another LIV Golf newcomer, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann.
The fourth event of the inaugural season drew a small group of demonstrators decrying LIV Golf as an attempt to “sportswash” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
But plenty of fans turned out eager to see the new product that has provoked the wrath of the US PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, with the US tour suspending any member player who appears on the circuit, which offers $25 million purses in a 54-hole format and has reportedly offered top stars tens of millions in signing bonuses.
Smith, the 29-year-old Australian who captured the Open Championship at St. Andrews in July, made the jump just this week and got right to business.
With three birdies in his first six holes and an eagle at the eighth, Smith had a share of the lead but found himself three adrift after a double-bogey at the par-four 14th.
Smith rebounded with a birdie at 15 and an unlikely par save at 16 — where his tee shot nestled at the base of a tree.
He got relief from a stance on a cart path but still damaged his gap wedge when it hit the tree on the shot. Nevertheless, he avoided dropping a stroke, and Smith was right back in the thick of it after rolling in a long eagle putt at 18.
“It was fun out there today,” Smith said.