Dustin Johnson leads the field by three strokes after the first round at LIV Golf Chicago, shooting a nine-under 63 in his first trip around Rich Harvest Farms.

The two-time major winner was nearly flawless as he put a decent gap between himself and second-placed Cameron Smith, going bogey free with nine birdies and nine pars as he consistently left himself with short putts.

Johnson's best run came from the sixth hole through to the 12th, where he collected six birdies over the space of seven holes.

Speaking after stepping off the last green, Johnson said he is in "a nice groove".

"My swing was really solid all day, hit it really close," he said. "I didn't have many long putts, but I holed a lot within 10 feet, and I struck it really well all day.

"Right now I feel like I've got my swing in a nice groove, so for me as long as I hit a couple balls every other day I can keep it there."

Alone in second is Smith with a bogey free six under, and one stroke away in sole possession of third is Matthew Wolff at five under.

Johnson has single-handedly pulled his team 4 Aces GC to the top of the leaderboard at 12 under – with team-mates Pat Perez at four over and Patrick Reed at two over – while Smith's Punch GC are in second place, with Matt Jones also pulling his weight to finish tied for fourth at four under.

Two Majesticks GC players are with Jones at four under – Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood – to leave them in third in the team standings.

Bryson DeChambeau and the Stinger GC pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel round out the top 10 at three under.

It is one of the strongest starts to a LIV tournament for Phil Mickelson, who is tied for 11th at two under along with Brooks Koepka, Harold Varner III and seven others.

Bryson DeChambeau says he is "not worried" about the PGA Tour's decision to indefinitely ban players who have defected to the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The sport is embroiled in a battle between the PGA Tour and the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf, with 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau one of those who has chosen to break away.

Henrik Stenson also chose to defect and was subsequently stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy before he won the third LIV event in New Jersey last week, while other players such as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia have joined too.

It has since been reported that Tiger Woods was offered up to $800million to join LIV Golf, though he chose to reject the money in order to stay with the PGA Tour.

The Wall Street Journal have reported that Mickelson and DeChambeau, as well as a number of other defectors, are planning to sue the PGA Tour over their suspensions.

But DeChambeau was not concerned about this development and was instead enthused by what LIV Golf could do for players financially, telling Fox News: "It doesn't make sense [the ban].

"I'm not worried about that. I think it will get figured out. I personally know that it will get figured out, whether it's legally or whether they come to the table and work out terms. I definitely think it will all wash itself out in the future, pretty shortly.

"Any time anyone invests over a billion dollars into the game of golf, how is that not going to grow the game and how is that not going to provide more opportunities?

"This is our livelihoods and it was a great economic opportunity for golfers to make a lot of money. That's why we grew up playing golf - also for the history, to go and win majors, PGA Tour events and now I want to win LIV events.

"You can see the passion and competitive aspect of this environment out here and we all want to win every single week."

Henrik Stenson could not resist taking a dig at his Ryder Cup predicament after winning his debut event on the breakaway golf tour at LIV Golf Bedminster, saying "I guess we can agree I played like a captain".

Stenson – who was sensationally stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy after announcing he would leave the PGA Tour – was a wire-to-wire winner in the 54-hole event, shooting a seven-under 64 in his opening round, before following it with a pair of 69s.

He finished two strokes ahead of Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson at nine under, with Carlos Ortiz (eight under) and Patrick Reed (seven under) rounding out the top-five, and a further three-stroke buffer to sixth.

Speaking immediately after sinking his winning putt, Stenson said it was pleasing to perform so well after such a hectic couple of weeks, but only after taking a shot at those in charge of his Ryder Cup ban.

"Yeah, I guess we can agree I played like a captain," he said, before acknowledging Ian Poulter is the captain of his Majesticks GC team.

"It's been a busy 10 days, and I'm extremely proud that I managed to focus as well as I did. I was a little wobbly coming home here – I haven't finished the deal in a couple of years with any wins – so it's always a little added pressure when you're up in contention, but I did well."

For the win, Stenson pocketed a $4.375million cheque, as well as a $375,000 bonus for his team finishing in second-place, only trailing Dustin Johnson's 4 Aces GC, which included Pat Perez at five over.

Stenson is understood to have accepted a signing-on fee to join LIV Golf in the region of $50 million, according to ESPN's report.

Henrik Stenson was victorious at the LIV Golf Bedminster tournament on Sunday, his debut event on the controversial breakaway tour.

Sweden's former Open champion completed his 54 holes on 11 under par, putting him two clear of Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff.

Stenson was stripped of his status as Europe's Ryder Cup captain after it was confirmed he was among the newest recruits to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf circuit.

He entered the third and final round with a three-stroke lead over Johnson, and posted three birdies and one bogey for a two-under 69 to get the job done.

Johnson, who was three under on Sunday, had to settle for matching the overall score of Wolff who put together the equal-best round of the tournament with his seven-under 64, finishing at nine under for the weekend.

Carlos Ortiz was alone in fourth at eight under, and Patrick Reed had sole possession of fifth at seven under.

With Johnson and Reed both collecting top-five finishes, and Talor Gooch being part of the five-man group at four under, their 4 Aces GC – along with fourth member Pat Perez (five over) – comfortably won the team competition, eight strokes clear of Stenson's Majesticks GC.

Brooks Koepka finished 11th at three under, alongside Martin Kaymer, while Ian Poulter was a shot back, and Charl Schwartzel snuck into the top 20 at even par.

It was a tournament to forget for Bryson DeChambeau (five over) and Phil Mickelson (six over), although Mickelson did close his weekend with his best round, shooting even par.

Henrik Stenson carded a two-under-par 69 to retain his lead after the second round of LIV Golf Bedminster, his first event on the controversial tour.

The Swede – stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy over his defection from the DP World Tour – showed steely focus on the fairways on Saturday at Trump National Golf Club.

The 2016 Open Championship winner moved clear of first-round co-leader Patrick Reed to top the standings outright at nine under, rallying after a double bogey on his third hole.

Stenson said: "I was hanging in there. I didn't feel I had my best stuff today, certainly a lot less than we played with yesterday."

Former Masters winner Reed slipped to a tie for third with a two-over 73, but he nevertheless retained a share of the lead in the team standings. Reed's 4 Aces GC team-mate Dustin Johnson moved second in the individual standings with a 69 to sit three shots off the lead at six under.

The 4 Aces advantage was cemented by a super round from Talor Gooch, who carded a best-of-the-day 64 to join Reed on five under through 36 holes, with Carlos Ortiz on the same mark.

It proved a miserable day at the office for Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as they posted 73 and 74 respectively, with DeChambeau carding six bogeys in his round. He sits tied for 28th, with Mickelson in a share of 40th place on six over – a full 15 shots behind Stenson.

Phil Mickelson says he was not distracted by being heckled before teeing off in the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster on Friday.

Mickelson stepped back from the tee after a spectator shouted "Do it for the Saudi Royal Family" at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

The six-time major champion was one of the highest profile players to sign a hugely lucrative deal with the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf series, leading to him being suspended from the PGA Tour.

Mickelson was way down the leaderboard in a tie for 43rd after shooting a four-over 75 in the opening round of the third LIV Golf event in New Jersey, where debutant Henrik Stenson shares the lead with Patrick Reed on seven under.

The 52-year-old insisted he was not affected by the words of a vocal spectator before he took his first shot.

When asked if he was affected by being heckled, Mickelson said: "No. I had a really good day. The people here have always been great and treated me well.

"I had a really good day with the fans and with Henrik playing well, there was a lot of good things going on. I'm just a little frustrated with my game to be honest.

He added: "I'm just frustrated because I expect more of myself, so I'm gonna work until I get it fixed."

Asked again about the heckler, he replied: "I've always enjoyed playing in this area and we had a great day thereafter, I thought it was a good day all around, so I didn't really think much of it."

Stenson made a great start to his first LIV Golf event and was happy to be playing again after losing the European Ryder Cup captaincy due to his defection.

The Swede said: "It's nice to be out there playing golf, and yeah, of course it’s been a busy couple of weeks and not the most fun, but we keep our head down and focus on the golf."

New signing Henrik Stenson is tied for the lead after the first round of LIV Golf Bedminster, shooting a seven-under 64 in his first event since committing to the controversial tour.

Stenson – who was stripped of his position as Ryder Cup captain due to his decision to leave the PGA Tour – collected eight birdies and one bogey, and helped his team Majesticks GC to second in the team standings at 10 under.

Tied for the individual lead is Patrick Reed, who also leads the team standings by one stroke along with his 4 Aces GC teammates Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez and Talor Gooch.

Alone in third place is Thailand's 23-year-old Phachara Khongwatmai at five under, and he is one stroke ahead of both Johnson and Carlos Ortiz, rounding out the top-five.

Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Brooks Koepka and Charles Howell III are all one shot further back at three under, while Lee Westwood headlines the group at two under, and Sergio Garcia is in the logjam at one under.

Bryson DeChambeau finished at even par after a late double-bogey, Louis Oosthuizen is at two over after posting a seven on the par-three seventh hole, and there are only three players below Phil Mickelson after he struggled to four over with five bogeys and one birdie.

Luke Donald has taken a dig at Henrik Stenson by declaring he will keep his word and "see it through" if he is named Europe's Ryder Cup captain.

Stenson was last week stripped of the honour of leading Europe against the United States in Rome next year after electing to join LIV Golf.

Donald is reportedly set to replace the Swede, and the Englishman is under the impression he has "a very good chance" of taking the role after holding talks.

"There’s nothing official to report," Donald told Golfweek. "I have been in talks with Guy [Kinnings, Ryder Cup director] at the European Tour. And that's all I know right now.

"I know I have a very good chance, Thomas Bjorn and a couple other guys are under consideration."

Donald, who never finished on a losing side in the four Ryder Cups he played in, says there is no chance he would take up a deal with LIV Golf after agreeing to captain Europe.

"If I got this captaincy, I would live up to my word and see it through," he said. "Let me put it that way. I wouldn't be doing a Henrik."

The 44-year-old Donald is disappointed Stenson defected to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series but would "love" to step in for Ryder Cup duty, with the 2016 Open champion out of the picture.

Donald said: "I've certainly had some of my best moments on the golf course in the Ryder Cups. What an amazing honour it is to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, and I would love to be a captain.

"That would be a huge honour as well. I was surprised that he would put his name forward if his plan was to go to LIV, which, you know, the rumours, and I hate to talk about rumours, but rumours are that he'd been in contact with the rival tours, whatever they were, and he was very interested.

"And I think everyone knew that, the European Tour knew that. They obviously took his word that he wasn't going to do it. We all have to sign a clause or contract saying that we won't have anything to do with (LIV).

"I'm disappointed I guess that he would put his name forward and then go to LIV. I understand certain guys going to LIV, in certain situations in their careers and stuff, that makes sense. But obviously something big to give up."

Donald revealed he has been offered a chance to be part of LIV Golf, but only for a television role.

He said: "Turned that down pretty quickly. A little bit of a slight on my game. I know I haven't played that great, but thanks but no thanks."

Henrik Stenson says he is "obviously disappointed" to no longer be European Ryder Cup captain but has to "move on" as he prepares to make his LIV Golf debut.

The Swede was last week stripped of the honour of leading Europe in Rome next year after signing a lucrative deal to join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway LIV Golf series.

Stenson had hoped he would be able to continue as captain despite his defection, but says he is looking to the future ahead of his first LIV Golf appearance in Bedminster on Friday.

He told reporters on Thursday: "I don't feel like I've given it up. I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfil my captain's duties, and I've had great help here from LIV to be able to do that.

"And still, the decision was made that I was to be removed. I'm obviously disappointed over the situation. But it is what it is, and yeah, we move on from there now."

Luke Donald is reportedly set to be named as Europe's new captain, but Stenson says he is not aware of who is successor will be.

"That's news to me," Stenson said when asked about the prospect of Donald getting the job.

"Obviously, I'm not in the loop on these things at this point. I don't feel like I should comment on that until that's official news, if that were to be the case."

Sergio Garcia has revealed he will "hold off" on quitting the DP World Tour, claiming he remains hopeful he can feature at the Ryder Cup despite signing up to feature in the LIV Golf series.

Garcia is one of several big names to join Greg Norman's controversial breakaway tour in recent months, and declared earlier in July he was "quite clear" on his intention to quit the European circuit. 

At this month's Open, the 2017 Masters champion also said he had all but given up on another Ryder Cup appearance after claiming he was "not wanted" on the European tour. 

Last week, Europe's 2023 Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson was stripped of the role after signing up to the LIV circuit, while both the PGA and DP World Tours have looked to sanction players joining the series.

But Garcia has gone back on his earlier pledge, and says he will wait for clarification on his chances of Ryder Cup participation before making any decision on his future.

"When I finished the Open Championship [last] Sunday, I said that I was most likely going to resign my membership from the [DP World] Tour," Garcia told ESPN. "That obviously meant not being eligible for the Ryder Cup because you have to be a member.

"[But] I had a couple of good conversations with guys on the [DP World] Tour, I'm going to hold off on that.

"I want to at least see what's happening when Ryder Cup qualification starts. See what kind of rules and eligibilities they have in there. If I agree with what they [are], I'll definitely keep playing whatever I can on the tour and try to qualify for that Ryder Cup team.

"And if not, then we'll move on. But it is definitely something that is in my mind.

"I told Keith Pelley [chief executive of the DP World Tour]: 'I want to keep being a member of the DP World Tour. I want to play my minimum, still support the tour, still have my eligibilities to make Ryder Cup teams.

"He said: 'That's great, but we've got to do what's best for us'. We'll see what that is."

However, Garcia did express sympathy for Stenson, describing the Swede's Ryder Cup ousting as "sad".

"Now it's gotten a little bit sadder with fines and bans," Garcia added. "What they did to Henrik. It's a little bit sad."

Garcia finished 24th in LIV Golf's first event in London at the start of June before posting a 26th-placed finish in Portland in early July. 

Henrik Stenson cannot feel slighted by losing the Ryder Cup captaincy over his decision to join LIV Golf, according to Europe's 1999 skipper Mark James.

James, who was captain when Europe surrendered a 10-6 lead to suffer defeat at Brookline, said Stenson's move represented a major coup for LIV, but insisted most of the breakaway tour's players were "past their peak".

Stenson became the latest big name to sign up for the controversial Saudi-backed tour on Wednesday, a decision that saw him stripped of Europe's captaincy for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome.

The 2016 Open champion wrote on twitter that he disagreed with the decision to remove him from that role, but James feels here was no other alternative.

"I don't think it was so much Ryder Cup Europe making a decision. Henrik was unable to fulfil the obligations of his Ryder Cup captain's contract," James told Stats Perform. 

"If you can't fulfil the obligations, then the agreement is null and void. 

"It's virtually a mutual decision. He can say, 'well, I didn't agree with the captaincy being pulled'. If he can't fulfil his contract, I'm not too sure what he expects. 

"I don't know if Henrik needs the money. It's entirely possible. You hear rumours of a lot of tour players losing vast amounts of money with investments, I'd have no idea if he was one of those. 

"But he'll be getting an awful lot of money for being Ryder Cup captain and stuff associated with that. So for him to jump to the LIV Tour means they're offering him a very, very nice wheelbarrow load of cash."

The LIV series already counted experienced pros such as Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter among its ranks, and James believes the circuit has found it far easier to persuade older players to sign up.

James did, however, note the recruitment of a player set to be Ryder Cup captain represented a significant coup for the Greg Norman-led tour.

"Their strategy is to get people who will come and if you get people in their 40s, they are way more likely to come than people in their 20s," James continued.

"They're building up names on their tour and having a tour full of good, big names, even if they're slightly past their peak, which you could argue that Westwood, Poulter, Stenson and [Paul] Casey and others are, is giving them a star-studded field and it's an inducement to other players to then jump on board. 

"Certainly, [for] a Ryder Cup captain to sign up is a coup. Henrik knows what he's doing. He's not daft. And he's a really lovely guy. I like him a lot. 

"It's a great shame because he would have been a brilliant captain. And that ship now has sailed and it's a pity. It would have been a real jewel in a glittering career."

Attention will now turn to Ryder Cup Europe's efforts to replace Stenson, which 2021 skipper Padraig Harrington said on Wednesday will be "no issue".

James agreed with that assessment as he downplayed the importance of the captaincy, adding: "They [LIV] are taking a lot of possible captains away. So we'll find other people to be captain, captain is not all-important. 

"The captain's position is drummed up to be incredibly important. But I think it's overrated, I always have done. 

"Every captain we have, over the last, certainly 15 odd years, everyone thinks they're just going a little extra mile to do something else and everything's a little better. 

"When you get out there on the turf and start playing against Americans, there's only one thing filling your mind, how much you want to beat the Americans, because this is a massive event and it's a huge thrill to play in it and be involved in it."

Padraig Harrington did not mince his words when discussing Henrik Stenson's decision to forfeit his Ryder Cup captaincy by joining LIV Golf, insisting he has "no empathy" for the Swede. 

Stenson is the latest big name to join the controversial circuit, with LIV Golf announcing the 46-year-old former major champion as one of three new recruits on Wednesday along with Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III.

Just four months ago Stenson was awarded Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy ahead of the 2023 edition beginning in Italy next September, taking over the role from Harrington.

But Stenson was removed from the position in anticipation of his choice to join LIV on Wednesday.

When asked how he felt about the Swede's move, Harrington argued Stenson should have honoured his Ryder Cup commitment, while saying he understands why the average professional golfer might make the jump.

"I certainly empathise with anybody that makes the decisions that they have made in terms of going to play a new tour; the financial incentives are quite impressive," he said.

"I do think it's different in Henrik's case, yes. He signed a contract not to do that and was specifically asked not to do that. I have no empathy there. 

"No, he took the Ryder Cup job when LIV was in doubt, and now that LIV is pretty much mainstream normalised, he's jumped ship."

Despite his disappointment, Harrington said Stenson's choice will have no real effect on Europe's Ryder Cup bid, with plenty of time remaining to select a new captain.

"It is 15 months, plenty of time," he said. "No issue as regards the actual team and, like, there's been nothing set in place about the selection processes or qualification processes. 

"Really doesn't affect the Ryder Cup in any shape or form. I'm sure we'll have a new captain installed pretty soon."

 

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