Puig Ortiz and Meronk share LIV Houston lead

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Adrian Meronk (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

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On a stacked LIV Golf Houston leaderboard in which a dozen players are within three shots of the lead, only one of them lives close enough to the course to commute from his Houston-area home.

Patrick Reed has never won a professional event in front of his hometown fans, but the 4Aces GC star has a chance to raise the trophy and enjoy a champagne celebration if he can emerge from what promises to be a Texas shootout Sunday at the Golf Club of Houston.

“Having all that support and also being able to stay at home, it means a lot,” Reed said. “Hopefully we go out there and … give them a show tomorrow and hopefully hoist that trophy.”

First, he’ll need to navigate past a foursome of leaders, two of whom have already experienced success in Houston.

Crushers GC’s Paul Casey, Cleeks GC’s Adrian Meronk, Torque GC’s Carlos Ortiz and Fireballs GC’s David Puig are each at 10 under, with Reed in solo fifth at 9 under. Casey won the Houston Open on this course in 2009, while Ortiz won the same tournament in 2020 after it moved to Memorial Park.

Torque GC Captain Joaquin Niemann and RangeGoats GC’s Matthew Wolff are tied for sixth at 8 under, with five more players at 7 under. Of those 12 players, only Niemann has won a LIV Golf tournament – two wins, in fact, earlier this year in Mayakoba and Jeddah.

Fueled by the 6-under 66s by Puig and Abraham Ancer, the Fireballs lead the team competition at 26 under, four shots ahead of Torque. Three teams – Crushers, 4Aces and Cleeks – are another shot back in third.

Casey, who shot his second consecutive 67 on Saturday, isn’t sure how much his success 15 years ago will impact the final outcome. He’s one of five players in the field who won the Houston Open on this course.

“I know what it takes, but it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier,” Casey said. “This has always been a tough test of golf. … This golf course has teeth, and just because I’ve won doesn’t change anything.”

Ortiz, who birdied four consecutive holes Saturday en route to a 68, doesn’t anticipate benefiting from his experience. On the flip side, he does admit to having a certain comfort level here.

“I like the golf course and the people,” Ortiz said. “I guess maybe that’s the confidence. I don’t know, but I’ve been playing really good, and I think it’s just reflecting now.”

Meronk was one of three first-round co-leaders with his captain Martin Kaymer and young Legion XIII player Caleb Surratt. While those two dropped down the leaderboard, Meronk rebounded from a tough start that included two bogeys in his first five holes to shoot a 69.

“Played quite solid,” said Meronk, who joined LIV Golf just before the start of this season. “Could have been much lower. Missed a couple of putts coming down the stretch. But still pretty pleased with my round and my position going into Sunday.”

Puig, meanwhile, started this week claiming medalist honors at the U.S. Open 36-hole qualifier in Northern California on Monday to earn a spot in next week’s major. He’s brought that momentum to Houston, opening with a 68, then shooting a 66 in which he finished with five birdies in his final seven holes.

“It for sure gave me some confidence,” Puig said of his early-week performance, “and I’m glad it’s paying off.”

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