“Golf, but louder.”
That’s LIV Golf’s mantra, but it should be, “A party, with a side of golf.”
the party got started on Friday for the first day of LIV Golf’s event at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, the first professional golf event at the course since LIV Golf despiser Tiger Woods won the WGC-Accenture Match Play championship in 2008.
Fifteen years later, golf fans and spectators in Tucson spent their St. Patrick’s Day afternoon watching high-profile golfers tee off in the second tournament of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf’s second season and the first event in the U.S. in 2023; the league started the season in Mayakoba, Mexico, last week. Even former Arizona basketball standout and MLB icon Kenny Lofton attended and took in the action with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.
Unlike other professional golf leagues, LIV Golf not only utilizes a team system, but each round has a shotgun start. One of the premier groupings included Dustin Johnson (4Aces Golf Club), Brooks Koepka (Smash Golf Club) and Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers Golf Club), which marked the first time all three of them were paired together.
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Johnson and DeChambeau shot 1 over (73), and Koepka, who is tied for 14th, shot 2 under (69). Since LIV Golf has a shotgun start, Koepka, DeChambeau and Johnson listened for a buzzer that could be heard at every hole on the course and teed off on hole No. 2 promptly at 10:15, a.m. finishing the round at hole No. 1.
Australia native and Ripper Golf Club’s Marc Leishman shot a 6 under and is atop the individual leaderboard after the first day. Torque Golf Club is on top of the team leaderboard. When Leishman birdied on No. 16, a par-3, Phoenix Open-esque hole that has a grandstand and played music, he felt the fan presence at the tournament.
“I actually holed a nice putt on 16 in front of the Birdie Shack, so that was nice to make a birdie in front of them and get a nice cheer,” Leishman said. “Yeah, crowds were great. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I’m sure they’ll be big on the weekend again.”
Party tunes could be heard on every hole. Among the songs heard around the course: “Fergilicous” by Fergie, “Feel So Good” by Mase and “Fight For Your Right” by Beastie Boys, among others. Imagine sinking a birdie putt with a Justin Bieber song in the background.
Normally professional golf events, especially on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, have “Quiet Please” signs for tournament workers to use to silence the gallery. The volunteers working the LIV Golf event clutched “Zip It” signs to shush the crowd.
Range Goats Golf Club captain Bubba Watson, who is tied for 31st on the individual leaderboard entering Saturday after shooting even par, said he “talked to some volunteers and some people outside around the town. They’re very excited to have golf back.”
“They had the Champions Tour (here three weeks ago). That’s all they have right now, so they were very excited to get us back here,” Watson said. “They want to see some great golf, so they’re pumped. Arizona has always loved the game of golf, but Tucson is thriving for it, so yes, Saturday is sold out, we’re really close to selling out the other days. It’ll be a privilege to be able to put on a show and us be on that podium.”
Fireballs Golf Club’s Abraham Ancer, who won the Australian Open on the PGA Tour in 2018, is tied for second with Louis Oosthuizen and Matthew Wolfe at 5 under.
“(The crowd) was really nice,” Ancer said. “There was a bunch of Fireballs hats out there, some Flecha hats, some Mexican hats. It was really nice. I feel like we Mexicans travel really well, but I know there’s a big presence here in Arizona, and it definitely feels nice to have a crowd out here, and we’re really passionate, so you can really feel how much they’re pulling for you.”
Former Arizona State Sun Devil Phil Mickelson, who is the captain of HyFlyers Golf Club, is tied for 23rd after shooting 1 under.
Aussie golf star and The Open champion Cameron Smith shot even par and is tied for 31st.
Active-duty military members or veterans who attend the LIV Golf event will receive complimentary grounds passes. LIV Golf is also offering 25% off tickets for college students, teachers and first responders who attend.
Contact sports producer Justin Spears at email@example.com. On Twitter: @JustinESports