Harold Varner III and Englishman Paul Casey each shot a 7-under 63 to share the first-round lead at LIV Golf Las Vegas on Thursday.
Varner went bogey-free with seven birdies at Las Vegas Country Club, while Casey absorbed his only bogey of the day early in his round before charging his way up the leaderboard with eight birdies.
The pair is two shots ahead of a four-way tie at 5-under 65, which includes three RangeGoats GC teammates — captain Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters. The trio has the RangeGoats on top of the team leaderboard by a stroke. Jason Kokrak is also at 5 under.
Casey had what he called a “silly error” on his third hole of the day, the par-4 10th, with a three-putt bogey. Then he shifted gears with six birdies in his next nine holes, including a hole-out from a greenside bunker at the par-4 18th.
“My caddie said it had 5 or 6 written all over it and I turned it into a 3,” Casey said. “Sometimes you need those little momentum-swinging shots.”
The veteran golfer, a member of Crushers GC, has had a hard time finding success on the LIV circuit. In 2023, Casey began the season with a fourth-place finish and never finished in the top 20 the rest of the way.
Now the 46-year-old is in prime position entering the final two days of LIV’s first event in Las Vegas.
“Love being part of the Crushers, but I don’t feel I’ve done my bit contributing and having that individual success, as well,” Casey said.
Varner felt the same way, saying he “didn’t pully (his) weight last week” for 4Aces GC. Varner finished dead last at the season opener at Mayakoba at 14 over par.
“I got some good work in with (instructor) Butch (Harmon),” Varner said. “That guy has been really good for me, so I saw him on whatever day and just worked on getting the ball going one direction, and obviously it paid off pretty well.”
Varner started his round at No. 4, birdied his first two holes and was well on his way.
“When I made birdies, it was like, all right, let’s go birdie the next one,” he said. “It’s like riding a bike.”
Tied for seventh at 4 under are Talor Gooch, Peter Uihlein, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
Behind them are some big names. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Australia’s Cam Smith and LIV newcomer Tyrrell Hatton of England are part of a large tie at 3 under. Spain’s Jon Rahm is at 2 under, along with Brooks Koepka and last week’s winner, Joaquin Niemann of Chile.
–Field Level Media
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