Wednesday, May 22, 2024

McDowell’s Smash GC team share lead in Singapore – Irish Golfer Magazine

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After suffering a “little low point” a week ago in Australia, Torque GC’s Sebastián Muñoz produced his best round of the 2024 season on Friday to take the first-round lead at LIV Golf Singapore.

Muñoz’s 6-under 65 at Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong course gives him a one-shot advantage over a group of six players – Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka, Cleeks GC Captain Martin Kaymer, Iron Heads GC Captain Kevin Na, RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters, HyFlyers GC’s Cameron Tringale and Fireballs GC’s Abraham Ancer.

Another eight players are two shots back, including Muñoz’s captain Joaquin Niemann, the current Individual points leader.

The team leaderboard is just as crowded. Fireballs and Smash share the lead at 11 under, with three teams just one shot back – Cleeks, RangeGoats and Stinger GC.

For Muñoz, Friday’s low round is a welcomed relief after his struggles in the first round in Adelaide. He suffered five bogeys, including three straight, in his final 10 holes to shoot a 1-over 72. It was his fourth score over par in his previous five rounds to that point.

“Kind of hit me hard,” Muñoz recalled. But his Torque teammates gathered together after the round to offer support. “We kind of had a deep talk,” he said. “… Just having good, solid teammates can help you a lot.”

Muñoz bounced back with two solids rounds to finish up in Adelaide, then fed off that momentum Friday in Singapore, setting the tone with birdies on two of his first three holes.

“Really happy where the game is right now and kind of trending,” Muñoz said.

Koepka, celebrating his 34th birthday Friday, found his putting stroke that has been mostly absent this season. He opened with five birdies in his first seven holes, and then saved par with a 12-footer after his birdie attempt had rolled off the green. A three-putt on the par-4 16th was his only blemish.

“Thought I putted OK,” Koepka said. “Speed was off, but the ones that I needed to make, I felt like I made.”

Pieters has found his form recently with a tie for ninth in Miami and a tie for 14th in Adelaide. His bogey-free 66 that included an eagle at the par-5 18th is his sixth consecutive sub-par round.

“Putting a lot of work in it over the last few months,” Pieters said. “I just had a rough time last year personally, and I finally found the time and the focus to kind of re-focus on my game. Been working on every aspect, and it’s kind of showing now.”

Ancer also continued his hot stretch that includes his first LIV Golf individual win two months ago in Hong Kong. He suffered an early bogey but then found his rhythm the rest of the way, including a stretch of three consecutive birdies to finish up his first nine holes.

After finishing 47th out of 48 players in Singapore last year, Ancer is happy with the strong start to this week.

“I was not in the same spot with my swing last year,” Ancer said. “Not playing confident at the time. Feel a lot better today. Big difference.”

Kaymer was coming off his best LIV round, an 8-under 64 on Sunday in Adelaide, and continued to show positive signs with his 66. Na, like Muñoz, played well in the last two rounds in Adelaide after a tough start and was bogey-free for his first 15 holes Friday.

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