JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Marc Leishman handled tough playing conditions best as he snatched a one-shot lead in the opening round of the season-ending LIV Golf Jeddah over Americans Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
Leishman’s bogey-free five-under par 65 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club also helped his team, the all-Australian Ripper, to the top of the team leaderboard. The Cameron Smith-led team were tied with Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers at six-under par.
Leishman’s closest challengers were defending champion Koepka, who holed out his second shot on the par-4 ninth for an eagle two in his 67, and Johnson, who has two wins at Royal Greens — in the 2019 and 2021 Saudi International, when it was part of the European tour.
Conditions were tough, with a strong wind blowing and the temperature close to 42-degrees Celsius.
There were only two other bogey-free rounds. England’s Richard Bland hit 67 while German Martin Kaymer made two birdies and 16 pars in his 68.
Jeddah is the last event of the regular season, followed next week with the $50 million Team Championship in Miami.
The individual tour title and the $18 million bonus that comes with it will be settled this weekend.
With 40 points on offer to the winner, only three players can finish top: Ripper’s Cameron Smith who has 170 points, American Talor Gooch of the RangeGoats who has 162 and USA and Crushers’ DeChambeau on 146.
Smith and Gooch both finished on even-par 70, while DeChambeau was one-under 69 after making a stunning birdie on the 607-yard par-5 18th, where he hit a mammoth drive and was left with just a 9-iron second shot.
“It was pretty tough out there. A fair bit of wind,” Leishman said. “When the conditions are tough like they were today, it’s nice to get a good score on the board.”
He said he had made a small adjustment to his putting stroke.