Uihlein and Gooch lead at LIV Mayakoba as McDowell moves into contention

Mark McGowan
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Peter Uihlein and his 4Aces team at LIV Golf Mayakoba (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)

Mark McGowan

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Peter Uihlein and Talor Gooch set the 36-hole target at nine-under in LIV Golf’s season-opening event at the Mexico’s El Camaleon Golf Club in Mayakoba, but Graeme McDowell shot a four-under round of 67 to move into sixth place at -5.

Starting on the sixth hole in the Shotgun Start format, the 2010 US Open champion opened his round with a birdie-three, but gave it back with a bogey on the ninth. The Portrush man’s round caught fire on the 11th, going birdie, birdie, eagle to roar up the leaderboard as heavy gusts made scoring difficult.

He’d trade another birdie and a bogey over the following 10 holes, ultimately signing for a 67 that saw him join Matt Wolff and Carlos Ortiz in a three-way tie for sixth at five-under.

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They go into the final round four shots shy of Peter Uihlein and Talor Gooch, with the latter shooting a bogey-free five-under in what was the joint-lowest score of the day along with Charles Howell III who sits in solo third at -8.

Gooch and Uihlein were part of an off-season trade that saw Uihlein join Dustin Johnson’s 4 Aces, with Gooch going the opposite way and joining the Bubba Watson led side that would change their name to the RangeGoats.

Meanwhile, Uihlein’s 4Aces and Gooch’s RangeGoats will both play chaser in the team competition. Crushers GC (14 under) will take a two-stroke over the 4Aces (12 under), with Fireballs GC (10 under) and the RangeGoats (7 under) also lurking.

It’s the first time the Crushers have taken a lead into any LIV Golf round – and they’ve done so through the first two rounds without captain Bryson DeChambeau contributing a counting score.

“It shows the crazy nature of golf, number one,” said leading Crushers player Howell III “Number two, I know Bryson has a low one in him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shoot a low one tomorrow.”

As for Uihlein and Gooch, both are former Oklahoma State players (as is Howell) and both are good friends. They’ve chatted about the transfers, how it happened that both were involved. Gooch wanted to play with his good friend Harold Varner III. Uihlein said he felt like he was joining the Yankees when he got the nod from 4Aces Captain Dustin Johnson, whose team won four regular-season events and the Team Championship last year.

“I’ve told Talor a lot that I think he’s handled this as well as anybody could have since joining (LIV Golf) and being on the Aces and then obviously switching teams,” Uihlein said. “Just the way the team stuff works out, with the finances and stuff, he’s done it incredibly well. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Said Gooch: “Once I knew what was going to happen and I was going to Bubba’s team, Peter was one of the first guys I called. Like, hey, we might be needing a fourth, don’t go signing anywhere, don’t do anything.”

A year ago, Uihlein finished third in the Individual Champion race, with Johnson capturing the title. Gooch finished 11th. Neither lofted an individual trophy. It might change for one of them on Sunday.

“Pete played great last year,” Gooch said. “He beat me last year. … The Aces didn’t falter whenever they got Pete. They’re a great team and they’re going to continue to play well. Hopefully we can start playing like the Aces.

“Come the end of the season, I think they’re going to be some good battles.”

The first one ends Sunday at Mayakoba. Shotgun start at 1:05 p.m. ET

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