Last updated on July 8th, 2023 at 08:21 AM
In the build-up to his Open Championship defence in a fortnight’s time, Cameron Smith appears to be hitting his stride at just the right moment. Friday’s commencement at LIV Golf London presents the most recent compelling evidence.
Leading the charge, the charismatic captain of Ripper GC delivered a scintillating bogey-free performance, carding a remarkable 8-under 63.
This outstanding display granted him a slender one-stroke advantage over his compatriot and teammate, Marc Leishman. As LIV Golf returns to Centurion Club, the esteemed host of last year’s inaugural tournament, it is the RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters who finds himself in solitary third place, trailing by a commendable three shots.
Meanwhile, the blazing-hot Talor Gooch, hailing from the same stable as Pieters, is engaged in a gripping three-way tie for fourth alongside Cameron Tringale of HyFlyers GC and Laurie Canter of Majesticks GC.
With Smith and Leishman leading the charge, the all-Australian Rippers currently possess the summit of the team leaderboard at an impressive 13-under, leaving the RangeGoats, at 10-under, trailing in their wake.
Notably, the local favourites Majesticks find themselves firmly ensconced in third position, eight strokes adrift but determined to mount a spirited challenge.
Although neither of the Australian frontrunners graced the grounds of Centurion Club in the previous year, their ease and comfort were unmistakable on this sun-drenched day in the outskirts of London.
“In all honesty, there wasn’t much in there that was subpar,” declared a modest Smith, whose flawless round stood out among the field on Friday. “… I feel like I’ve been on this upward trajectory for a few months now.”
Indeed, Smith’s recent performances have been nothing short of commendable, finishing no worse than 12th in his past seven outings, including strong showings in the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.
While the year 2023 has yet to witness Smith hoisting a trophy, the momentum he is amassing provides undeniable fuel as he heads towards Royal Liverpool.
“Whenever Cam enters a tournament, he undoubtedly emerges as a formidable contender,” Leishman offered, acknowledging the formidable nature of his teammate’s game. “I believe participating this week will be of tremendous assistance to him.
The wind here in England and Scotland is an entirely different beast—far more burdensome. Acclimating to those conditions is rather crucial.”
Having adeptly navigated through the first six holes, acknowledged as the most treacherous stretch at Centurion, Smith emerged from the challenge with a commendable score of 1-under.
Beginning at the ninth hole, he embarked on a birdie spree, delighting spectators with seven birdies in the ensuing nine holes, before ultimately settling for par on the formidable par-5 18th. The Queenslander credited his improved performance on Friday to a heightened synergy with his trusty caddie, Sam Pinfold.
“Sam and I had a wonderful rhythm today, which, truthfully, has been a rarity as of late. We genuinely discussed and strategized our shots, something that had seemingly been an absent piece of the puzzle.
It was gratifying to address those matters before another monumental tournament,” Smith revealed, clearly content with the newfound collaboration.
While Leishman has endured a season plagued by inconsistencies, the Australian stalwart roared out of the gates on Friday, exhibiting scintillating form.
Following a par on the daunting 12th hole, he soared to six birdies in the ensuing seven holes, before reaching the most challenging segment of the course.
“It’s been quite some time, but I’m absolutely thrilled to finally put up a commendable score on the board,” Leishman gleefully confessed, his relief palpable.
When the sun rises on Saturday, the leading trio of Smith, Leishman, and Pieters will grace the course as part of the marquee group. Yet, ahead of them lies the undeniable allure of Gooch, the hottest golfer in LIV Golf, fresh off his triumph at Andalucía, securing his third title of the season.
Gooch set the stage ablaze on Friday, commencing his campaign with four birdies in the first five holes, ultimately concluding the day with a score of 67 or better—his 11th such round this season.
“It was a fantastic day,” declared Gooch, beaming with satisfaction. “Make no mistake, this golf course is not as forgiving as Cameron has made it appear.”
As the competition intensifies, the stage is set for an enthralling weekend of golf, as the finest in the game continue to captivate audiences and leave their indelible mark on the prestigious LIV Golf London tournament.
LIV TEAMS COUNTING SCORES
Here are the standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf London. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score.
The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
1. RIPPER GC (-13): Cameron Smith 63, Marc Leishman 64, Matt Jones 73
2. RANGEGOATS GC (-10): Thomas Pieters 66, Talor Gooch 67, Bubba Watson 70
3. MAJESTICKS GC (-8): Laurie Canter 67, Ian Poulter 69, Henrik Stenson 69
4. HYFLYERS GC (-6): Cameron Tringale 67, James Piot 69, Brendan Steele 71
5. STINGER GC (-5): Branden Grace 68, Dean Burmester 70, Louis Oosthuizen 70
T6. CRUSHERS GC (-4): Anirban Lahiri 68, Bryson DeChambeau 70, Paul Casey 73
T6. FIREBALLS GC (-4): Abraham Ancer 68, Sergio Garcia 69, Eugenio Chacarra 72
8. 4ACES GC (-3): Patrick Reed 70, Peter Uihlein 70, Pat Perez 70
T9. SMASH GC (-2): Jason Kokrak 69, Chase Koepka 70, Brooks Koepka 72
T9. CLEEKS GC (-2): Richard Bland 68, Martin Kaymer 71, Bernd Wiesberger 72
11. TORQUE GC (E): Joaquin Niemann 69, Mito Pereira 71, David Puig 73
12. IRON HEADS GC (+6): Kevin Na 72, Sihwan Kim 73, Danny Lee 74