BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) — Branden Grace couldn’t miss with his irons or his putter Friday on his way to a 9-under 61 to build a two-shot lead after one round of LIV Golf Tulsa.
Grace finished with three straight birdies at Cedar Ridge, a course in the Tulsa suburbs that last hosted the LPGA Tour in 2008. He needed them to hold off Dustin Johnson, who showed signs of shaking off some rust by finishing with five straight birdies.
Johnson and Brendan Steele each shot a 63.
Matt Wolff led the six players with LIV who went to college in Oklahoma. Wolff, who starred at Oklahoma State, shot a 66. Talor Gooch, another former Oklahoma State player coming off two straight LIV Golf titles in Australia and Singapore, shot a 68.
Grace, who won the second LIV Golf event when the Saudi-backed circuit began last year, is best known for the lowest score in major championship history when he shot 62 at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.
This wasn’t quite the test, but no less pleasing.
“There were some similarities to when I shot 62 in the British Open, hitting good shot after good shot and the putter was hot,” Grace said. “When I get it going, I get quite fearless. When I get in a groove, I’m really aggressive.”
Johnson, who won the season points title last year, has finished no closer than five shots of the winner in the five LIV events this year. He was in the middle of the pack until his closing five birdies moved him to within two shots of Grace.
Phil Mickelson had a 71 and was 10 shots behind.
Martin Kaymer had a 68. The two-time major champion earlier in the day decided to withdraw from the PGA Championship next week at Oak Hill. Kaymer is a former PGA champion with a lifetime exemption. He only started playing again last month because of a shoulder injury.
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