PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico: Talor Gooch made a 4-foot birdie putt on his final hole to tie Peter Uihlein for the lead in a LIV Golf season debut at Mayakoba that looks to be an Oklahoma State alumni reunion.
Uihlein was in the lead for most of Saturday at El Camaleon until a bogey-birdie-bogey finish led to a 5-under 66. Gooch played bogey-free, ending his round with an approach to short range on the par-4 first hole.
They were teammates at Oklahoma State — Uihlein was a junior having won the US Amateur at Chambers Bay when Gooch was a freshman.
They were at 9-under 133, one shot ahead of Charles Howell III, who played for the Cowboys more than a decade earlier. Howell opened with three straight birdies and closed with a birdie for a 66.
Paul Casey was in the mix until three bogeys over his last four holes gave him a 71 and left him three shots behind, along with Branden Grace (68).
Uihlein finished at No. 3 on the points list in LIV’s inaugural season, and he was recruited to replace Gooch as part of the 4 Aces team captained by Dustin Johnson. He closed out the front nine with five birdies in a six-hole stretch before settling into a series of pars until his wild finish.
“The back nine was just tough. The greens got a little crusty,” Uihlein said. “I kept the ball in play, which is all you can really do around here.”
In the team competition, Howell’s round helped carry the Crushers to a two-shot lead over 4 Aces.
Mayakoba held a PGA Tour event from 2007 until last November. Howell played that tournament 13 times with three top 10s, his best a tie for fourth in 2018.
“I’ve played this golf course many times. You just never get comfortable around it,” Howell said. “If you drive it well, you can play it. So we’ve got a tough day ahead of us.”
Johnson had to settle for a 71, taking a double bogey late in his round, and found himself six shots out of the lead.
Phil Mickelson made only one birdie in his round of 75 and was 14 shots behind after two rounds. The third and final round is Sunday.