NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Branden Grace won LIV Golf’s first stop on American soil, an event that drew critics and protesters alike as the burgeoning series was funded by Saudi Arabia.
Grace finished Saturday with a 7-under 65 and finished the 54-hole tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club with a 13-under.
Hosted by CEO Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the fledgling LIV series aims to challenge the PGA Tour. It has attracted a few players including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson with the promise of big signing bonuses, hefty prize pools and fewer events.
Grace beat Mexican Carlos Ortiz by two shots.
“I was playing flawless golf, playing really, really well when I had to do something special and showed up and managed to pull it out,” Grace said. “But what a great day, it’s been amazing coming here, this new format, this new everything is great and everyone here is having a great time.”
The 48-man field in Oregon was fighting for a $20 million prize, with an additional $5 million in prize money for a team competition. There was no cut, and even the last one earned a $120,000 payday. Charl Schwartzel won the tour’s opening event outside of London (and the team portion) and pocketed $4.75 million.
Grace earned $2,025,000 for his work at Centurion in the first LIV event ($1,275,000 for a tie for third place in the individual event, $750,000 for the winning team). He earned an additional $4,375,000 on Saturday ($4 million for the individual win and an additional $375,000 for participating in the second-place team).
His two-week earnings of $6,400,000 are the highest of any player in the LIV season to date. His highest on-court earnings in a single PGA Tour season was $2,878,868 in 2015-16.
World No. 119 Ortiz shot a 69. Johnson (71) finished the four-pack with Patrick Reed (67).
Team Four Aces, led by Johnson, won the team competition at Pumpkin Ridge.
The PGA Tour responded to the Upstart Tour by suspending every active member who competed in the first LIV event. Those playing in Oregon were also suspended unless they resigned their tour memberships.
LIV Golf has faced criticism since its inception, long before it came to tiny North Plains, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.
The city’s mayor and 10 other mayors from nearby communities wrote weeks ago to the Texas-based owner of the course, objecting that the event was inconsistent with Saudi Arabia’s values because of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, including the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi community is compatible.
A group of families whose loved ones died in the September 11 terrorist attack came to North Plains on the opening day of the tournament to protest the event. 15 of the 19 hijackers that day in 2001 were Saudi nationals. The group is planning a larger demonstration for the next stop in Bedminster, New Jersey.
US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon called the tour “sports washing” to belittle Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Wyden pointed to the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland in 2016. A Saudi national was charged in the case but disappeared before the trial and US officials believe he was taken out of the country with the help of the Saudi government. A protester at the entrance on Friday held a sign that read “Fallon Smart, 2000-2016.”
Players were faced with tough questions about their engagement ahead of the tournament, with most reciting pat replies claiming that golf can be a “force for good”. Others complained about the structure and grind of the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf advertises that it is “Golf but louder”. In addition to the team competition taking place at the same time, the tournaments offer shotgun starts, interactive fan activities and hip-hop fans on the driving range.
Visitor numbers on Saturday were better than on Thursday and Friday. LIV Golf said it was sold out but declined to reveal the number of tickets sold.
The next event on the tour is July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34186380/branden-grace-wins-first-us-based-event-controversial-liv-golf-tour-takes-home-total-4375000 Branden Grace wins first U.S.-based event for controversial LIV Golf tour, takes home a total of $4,375,000