Talor Gooch will take a one-shot lead into the third and final round of the LIV Golf Invitational Boston after the 30-year-old American shot a second round 65 at The International to take his total to 12-under-par.
Gooch, who has been one of the most consistent performers in the series, with top-10 finishes in the previous three events he has competed in – as well as two team wins – sits one shot ahead of LIV Golf debutant Joaquin Niemann, who matched Gooch’s 65. Dustin Johnson moved into solo third after shoot a second round 63.
In the team standings, 4 Aces, whose team includes Gooch and Johnson, is at 22 under and has a three-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson’s Hy Flyers, with Iron Heads another stroke back.
Gooch, who shot a 63 in the opening round, started his second round with a bogey before playing flawless golf for the rest of the way, missing just one fairway and two greens. “Both days have been really good,” Gooch said. “I’ve been able to get off the tee really well, and when I do that, especially out here, you’re going to have opportunities.”
Johnson, whose 63 matched the lowest score of any player in a LIV Golf event to date, said” “I’ve been playing solid every week. Each round I’ve felt like I’m doing the right things. Eventually it’s all going to come together. Today was good at times, but I still made quite a few mistakes. My game is definitely in good shape and I like the direction it’s heading in.”
Niemann also had chances to go lower, but missed several short putts, including two lip outs on consecutive holes. “I’m playing my best golf,” said the Chilean. “I hit the ball amazing off the tee, and hit it pretty close with the wedges. I’m actually putting ok, but I just can’t quite see the breaks. If I can make a few putts tomorrow, it’s going to be a good round.”
First round leader Matthew Wolff dropped back into a share of fifth following a second round 69, while LIV Golf debutant Anirban Lahiri moved up to fourth thanks to a 65 to go with his earlier 66 to sit on -9. Cameron Smith, the highest ranked player in the field, added a 69 to his first round 64 to share 8th place on -7 with five other players.
While LIV Golf has broken new ground for professional golf in many areas, it created another first on Saturday when tournament officials allowed players to wear shorts during the second round given the extreme temperatures in Boston. Of the 48 players in the field, 40% took advantage of the new rule and ditched the trousers, including Phil Mickelson, who was one of the driving forces behind the relaxation in the dress code, which will apply to all events going forward.
“This has been a long time coming in the game of golf,” said Mickelson. “I think it just takes a disruptor like LIV to get things done. They’ve been leading in many ways, and I’m very happy that they are leading in this particular area. I hope for the players’ sake the [PGA] Tour follows suit. I think it’s good for golf. It feels good, and it’s more comfortable, especially when we start getting into some hot temperatures.”
Sergio Garcia was another player who took advantage of the relaxed rule. “I’ve been wanting to wear shorts in tournament play for a long while,” the Spanish star said after shooting a 64. “I think it’s just another step forward towards getting more connected with the fans, making the game younger, fresher. I’m glad that we all decided to take this step forward.”
Dustin Johnson was among those who stuck with trousers, although only, it seems, for the sake of continuity. “Pat [Perez} texted me last night and said, ‘Are we wearing shorts?’ and I texted back, ‘No, we’re going to wear pants,’ so I think we all wore pants,” Johnson said. “It was only because I think if we would have started or known before the tournament started, we probably would have worn shorts, but in the middle of the tournament I don’t like switching it up. I’m going to wear pants again tomorrow, too.”
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said: “Coming from Australia, I’ve always felt comfortable wearing shorts to play golf. We did a survey among the players a couple of weeks ago about wearing shorts for tournament rounds and there was a strong positive response to it. The time was right. LIV is the future of golf and we just want to open it up and make sure the players are as comfortable as possible.”