LIV Golf London 2022: Charl Schwartzel Leads After Day 1; Phil Mickelson Shoots 69

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJune 9, 2022

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Phil Mickelson of Hy Flyers GC tees off on the 1st hole during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - London at The Centurion Club on June 09, 2022 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images

After months of drama, LIV Golf officially got underway with its inaugural event Thursday in London.

Charl Schwartzel leads the 48-player field after shooting a five-under 65 in Round 1 at the Centurion Club, one stroke ahead of Hennie Du Plessis in second place.

The big names in the event also had positive moments. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson both finished one stroke under par, putting them in a tie for seventh place and four strokes off the lead.

The controversial tour, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, features only three rounds with no cuts. That could keep a lot of players in the race for the $4 million first-place prize.

Round 1 Leaderboard

1. Charl Schwartzel (-5)

2. Hennie Du Plessis (-4)

T3. Phachara Khongwatmai (-3)

T3. Scott Vincent (-3)

T5. Justin Harding (-2)

T5. Branden Grace (-2)

T7. Dustin Johnson (-1)

T7. Phil Mickelson (-1)

T7. Sam Horsfield (-1)

T7. Laurie Canter (-1)

Leaderboard via LIV Golf broadcast.

The money involved in LIV Golf has drawn plenty of headlines, and the first tournament features a massive prize pool:

Kyle Porter @KylePorterCBS

LIV purse this week.<br><br>1st: $4M<br>2nd: $2.1M<br>3rd: $1.5M<br>4th: $1.1M<br>5th: $975K<br>6th: $800K<br>7th: $675K<br>8th: $625K<br>9th: $580K<br>10th: $560K<br><br>• $20M total<br>• $5M to top teams<br>• Top 15 all make a quarter million<br>• Last place is $120K

It has brought out proven stars even under the threat of suspension from the PGA Tour, which the tour announced Thursday.

This might not matter if they make enough from the competition.

Johnson and Mickelson put themselves in reach of first place with impressive shots throughout the day:

LIV Golf @LIVGolfInv

DJ doing DJ things 👏<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LIVGolf?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LIVGolf</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/DJohnsonPGA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DJohnsonPGA</a> <a href="https://t.co/5bBPVoiB9b">pic.twitter.com/5bBPVoiB9b</a>

LIV Golf @LIVGolfInv

Birdie. On. Point. 🎯<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LIVGolf?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LIVGolf</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/PhilMickelson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PhilMickelson</a>

It was far from a perfect day from Mickelson in his first tournament in over four months. A double bogey at No. 4 put him at two over earlier in the day, while Johnson also had one double when a tee shot went out of bounds.

Things could have been worse as the veterans remain within striking distance.

Sergio Garcia finished one stroke over par in his first round, while Kevin Na ended plus-three.

The first round also highlighted lesser-known golfers from around the world who came through with outstanding shots:

LIV Golf @LIVGolfInv

First eagle fired 🦅 <a href="https://twitter.com/PeterUihlein?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PeterUihlein</a> chipping in for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CRUSHERSGC?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CRUSHERSGC</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LIVGolf?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LIVGolf</a>

LIV Golf @LIVGolfInv

Almost albatross glory 🫣 📏<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PUNCHGC?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PUNCHGC</a> captain <a href="https://twitter.com/wadeormsby?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wadeormsby</a> going pin hunting <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LIVGolf?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LIVGolf</a> <a href="https://t.co/7cN6b6JvTO">pic.twitter.com/7cN6b6JvTO</a>

Du Plessis and Phachara Khongwatmai, two players outside the top 100 in the world rankings, were among the most impressive and have a chance to earn life-changing money in this event.

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, was the best in the field to take an early lead. His eagle on No. 18 turned heads, while a birdie on his final hole of the day put the 37-year-old in solo first place.

Schwartzel and Du Plessis also keyed an impressive performance for Stinger GC in the team race. The top two scores for each team count for the competition, and the duo put Stinger GC in the lead even without the two-under score from teammate Branden Grace.

With Louis Oosthuizen also on the all-South African team, it might be a difficult group to beat this weekend.