North Plains, Ore — Branden Grace is the first in LIV Golf Stop Wins An event in the United States that has similarly attracted critics and protesters to fund an emerging series by Saudi Arabia.
Grace finished on Saturday with a 7-under 65 and a 13-under finish in the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's 54-hole tournament. The 34-year-old South African earned $ 4 million.
Led by CEO Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the new LIV series aims to take on the PGA Tour. It attracted some players such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, and promised big contracts, big prizes and fewer events.
Grace defeated Carlos Ortiz of Mexico in a two-stroke.
"I was able to play perfect golf, play really well when I needed to do something special, and pull it out when I came up with it," Grace said. "But it was a great day. It was great to be here. This new format, all this new is great and everyone here is having a lot of fun."
Ortiz, ranked 119th in the world, shot 69. Johnson (71) finished with Patrick Reed (67) and four backs.
Oregon's 48-man field competed for a $ 20 million wallet, with an additional $ 5 million in prize money for the team's competition. There were no cuts, and even the bottom finishers earned $ 120,000 payday. Charl Schwartzel won the first event (and team part) of the tour outside London, with $ 4.75 million in his pocket.
The Four Aces team, led by Johnson, won the team tournament at Pumpkin Ridge.
LIV Golf also announced on Saturday that British player Pat Casey has joined the series. 44-year-old Casey has won the PGA Tour three times and the European Tour 15 times, ranking 26th in the world. He hasn't played a tournament round since March due to an injury.
The PGA Tour now supports the Upstart Tour by suspending all active members who participated in the first LIV event. People who played in Oregon were also suspended unless they resigned from their tour membership.
LIV Golf has been criticized since its inception long before arriving at the small North Plains, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.
The mayor and 10 mayors of the neighboring community wrote a letter to the Texas-based owner of the course a few weeks ago, an event for human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including the killing of journalist Jamal. Khashoggi objected to the inconsistency with the values of the community.
A group of families whose beloved family was killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks came to North Plains on the first day of the tournament to protest the event. Of the 19 hijackers that day in 2001, 15 were Saudi citizens. The group is planning a larger demonstration for its next stop in Bedminster, NJ.
Senator Ron Weiden of Oregon has called for a "sportswashing" tour to undermine Saudi Arabia's human rights record. Weiden pointed out the 2016 hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland. Saudis were accused in this case, but disappeared before the trial, and US officials believe he was rejuvenated abroad with the help of the Saudi government. The protesters at the entrance on Friday had a sign that says "Fall on Smart, 2000-2016".
Before the tournament, players faced tough questions about their involvement. In most cases, he recited Putt's answer, arguing that golf could be a "power for good." Others complained about the structure and grind of the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf advertises that "it's golf, but it's loud." In addition to simultaneous team competition, the tournament features shotgun launches, interactive fan activities, and hip-hop barks at the driving range.
Saturday's crowd was better than Thursday and Friday. LIV Golf said it was sold out, but did not disclose the number of tickets sold. The next event on the
tour will take place July 29-31 at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. Casey is expected to participate at that time.
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