‘Pleased’ Henrik Stenson holds lead over Dustin Johnson at LIV Golf Invitational in New Jersey

BEDMINSTER, NJ – Henrik Stenson overcame a double bogey on his third hole Saturday with a long eagle putt and enough birdies for a 2-under 69 at windy Trump National Bedminster and a 3-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson in the LIV Golf Invitational.

Two weeks ago, Stenson had just missed the Open cut and was still the Ryder Cup captain for Europe. Now the 46-year-old Swede is 18 holes away from a $4 million prize, more than double the biggest check of his career.

“It was a bit difficult at times, and then we kind of hit some really good shots and made some nice putts,” Stenson said.

It was 9 under 133, as only 13 players from the 48-man field remained under par.

“Overall I’m happy and we’re at the races,” Stenson said.

Johnson hit the ball consistently well for two days at Trump National and had enough putts to fall for a 69, leaving him three behind and in the final group with Stenson.

Talor Gooch had the fastest round by 3 strokes, a 64 that propelled him tied for third at 5 under with Patrick Reed (73) and Carlos Ortiz (70).

Reed started the second of three rounds tied with Stenson and kept pace until he started the back nine with three straight bogeys. He rallied with a late eagle up his sleeve to stay in the mix heading into Sunday.

With fast greens, the wind made it more difficult to score. Only 14 players scored par or better.

Phil Mickelson was no longer on that list. Mired in a slump since a four-month voluntary layoff, Mickelson could only manage a 73 and was tied for 40th, 15 shots shy of the lead.

Since returning, Mickelson has averaged 74.5 points, including the US Open and The Open Championship, with his only under-par score at the first LIV Golf event outside of London.

Stenson is still new to the 54-hole event with a shotgun start, although good golf means he will start on the first hole for the second straight time on Sunday, a degree of normalcy for him. What hasn’t been normal is being criticized for pledging his support for Europe in March by becoming Ryder Cup captain and then signing with the rival league four months later.

Europe stripped him of his captaincy for the 2023 fixtures in Italy.

“It’s certainly been a busy and emotional week, no doubt, or 10 days,” Stenson said. “But I was very happy with how I was able to channel the focus and play the fastest lap of the season yesterday. Like I said, I didn’t have my best parts today, but I was always focused and had a good attitude, and that’s what kept me in the ball game.”

The Swede has not lost his dry humor. When asked if he had a chip on his shoulder, Stenson replied, “I don’t see one.”

Johnson, who had been world No. 1 for longer than any player since Tiger Woods, was the biggest player to sign with Saudi-backed LIV Golf two months ago when he was about to launch.

His last victory dates back to the start of 2021 at the Saudi international. He hasn’t won a PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament since the Masters in November 2020. He finished eighth and fourth in his two $1.9 million LIV events.

Johnson was unaware when he finished on the No. 1 that Stenson had bogeyed on the par-5 18th to end his round, reducing the Swede’s margin to 3 shots.

“He’s definitely within reach, especially around this course,” Johnson said.

.

Leave a Comment