Los Angeles: Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz shared the second-round lead in the LIV Golf Series stop in Portland on Friday.
Johnson, the former world number one whose two major titles include the 2020 Masters, briefly threatened to make it a runaway before three late bogeys saw him settle for a four-under par 68 and an eight-under total at Pumpkin Ridge.
He’ll go into the final round of the 54-hole, shotgun start event neck and neck with overnight leader Ortiz, who birdied the final hole to cap a 69.
They are two strokes ahead of South African Branden Grace, who also signed for a 69.
“I’m really happy with the way I’m swinging it,” said Johnson, who at 17th in the world is the highest-ranked player to risk the wrath of the US PGA Tour and make the jump to the lucrative new circuit. “Tomorrow I just need to go and do the same thing, just drive in the fairway.”
Johnson made his LIV debut in the inaugural event near London in June while Mexico’s Ortiz is playing for the first time. Ortiz won his lone US PGA Tour title at the Houston Open in 2020, joined the list of players suspended by the US circuit after teeing off in the upstart Saudi-backed series. The DP World Tour has also sanctioned members lured by the massive paydays on offer that included signing bonus and a $20mn purse for this week’s 48-player field with an additional $5mn prize money on offer in a team competition.
Golf Digest reported on Friday that the series has accelerated growth plans for 2023 with 14 events rather than 10 and plans a name change to the LIV Golf League.
The report, citing an unnamed LIV Golf official, said the quick expansion is a product of signing several top US PGA players ahead of this week’s event, including Americans Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Matthew Wolff.
Dustin Johnson walks up to the tee box on the 7th hole during round two of the LIV Golf Invitational at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon. (AFP)