LIV Golf concludes the first day of play at The Gallery Golf Club
That’s the LIV Golf mantra, but it should be: “A party with a side of golf.”
The party started Friday on the first day of LIV Golf’s event at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, the first professional golf event on the course since Tiger Woods, the Despiser of LIV Golf, won the 2008 WGC-Accenture Match Play championship won.
Fifteen years later, golf fans and spectators in Tucson spent their St. Patrick’s Day afternoon watching top-flight golfers tee off at the second tournament of the second season of Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf and the first event in the US in 2023. The league kicked off the season last week in Mayakoba, Mexico. Even Kenny Lofton, former Arizona basketball standout and MLB icon, was in attendance and joined in the action with Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf.
Unlike other professional golf leagues, LIV Golf not only uses a team system, each round has a shotgun start. Leading groupings included Dustin Johnson (4Aces Golf Club), Brooks Koepka (Smash Golf Club) and Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers Golf Club), marking the first time all three were paired together.
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Johnson and DeChambeau shot 1 under (73), and Koepka, tied for 14th, shot 2 under (69). Because LIV Golf has a shotgun start, Koepka, DeChambeau and Johnson listened for a buzzer to be heard on every hole on the course and teeed off on hole #2 at 10:15 sharp. I finished the round at hole #1.
Australia’s Marc Leishman of Ripper Golf Club undershot a 6 to top the individual rankings after day one. Torque Golf Club tops the team rankings. When Leishman birdied the #16, a Phoenix Open-style par 3 hole that has a grandstand and played music, he felt the presence of the fans at the tournament.
“I actually holed a nice putt on 16 in front of the Birdie Shack, so it was nice to birdie in front of them and get a nice cheer,” Leishman said. “Yes, the crowd was great. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and I’m sure they’ll make it big again this weekend.”
Party tunes could be heard at every hole. Among the songs heard on the course were “Fergilicous” by Fergie, “Feel So Good” by Mase and “Fight For Your Right” by Beastie Boys. Imagine sinking a birdie putt with a Justin Bieber song playing in the background.
Typically, professional golf events, particularly those on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, have “Quiet Please” signs that tournament officials can use to silence the stands. Volunteers working at the LIV Golf event clutched “Zip It” signs to silence the crowd.
Range Goats Golf Club captain Bubba Watson, ranked 31st in the individual standings and starting Saturday after an even par shootout, said he had “spoke to some volunteers and some people out of town. They are very happy to have golf again.”
“They had the Champions Tour (here three weeks ago). That’s all they have right now, so they were very excited to bring us back here,” Watson said. “They want to see great golf, so they’re excited. Arizona has always loved the game of golf, but Tucson is thriving on it, so yeah, Saturday sells out, we’re really close to selling out the other days. It will be a privilege to be able to put on a show and be on that podium.”
Fireballs Golf Club’s Abraham Ancer, who won the 2018 Australian Open on the PGA Tour, ranks second with Louis Oosthuizen and Matthew Wolfe with 5 under.
“[The audience]was really nice,” Ancer said. “There were some Fireballs hats out there, some Flecha hats, some Mexican hats. It was very nice. I feel like we Mexicans travel really well, but I know there’s a big presence here in Arizona and it definitely feels good to have a crowd out here and we’re really passionate, so you can really feel how much they pull for you.”
Former Arizona State Sun Devil Phil Mickelsonwho is the captain of HyFlyers Golf Club, ranks 23rd after shooting 1 under.
Aussie Golf Star and The Open Champion CameronSmith even scored par and is tied for 31st place.
Active duty military or veterans attending the LIV golf event will receive complimentary terrain passes. LIV Golf is also offering 25% off tickets for college students, teachers and first responders who attend.
Contact sports producer Justin Spears at [email protected]. On Twitter: @JustinESports