Three Tied At Top; Cleeks top Team Leaderboard

| Published 06/07/2024

Caleb Surratt of Legion XIII GC shot a 7-under 65 on Friday at LIV Golf Houston. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/LIV Golf)

HUMLBE, TX -- Caleb Surratt struggled to disregard the noise in his first few months since turning pro to join LIV Golf.

Now he’s determined to make some noise.

The 20-year-old Surratt, LIV Golf’s youngest player, started the second half of the 2024 season with a bang, shooting a bogey-free 7-under 65 Friday at LIV Golf Houston to share the first-round lead with the Cleeks GC duo of captain Martin Kaymer and Adrian Meronk.

“Obviously, I have the mindset that the job is not finished by any means,” said Surratt of Legion XIII, “but I’m really happy to be out here playing free for probably the first time this season.”

The Cleeks also made plenty of noise, shooting a cumulative score of 17 under to grab a three-shot advantage over Torque GC in the team competition. It’s the first time the Cleeks, who remain in search of their first trophy of any kind, have led since last year’s opening round in Adelaide.

Kaymer’s team is definitely trending in the right direction. In the most recent LIV Golf event in Singapore, the Cleeks tied for second, their best-ever result. Then two weeks ago, Cleeks veteran Richard Bland won the Senior PGA Championship in his senior debut.

Now Kaymer has found his form after a lengthy recovery from wrist surgery, and his team leads for the first time in more than a year, even without Bland contributing a counting score. First-year LIV player Kalle Samooja continued to show signs of progress with a 3-under 69 to round out the team’s scoring.

“I think what Richard did a couple of weeks ago really helped our team spirit,” Kaymer said. “We were really in a good place, but a win can make a big difference. … The way Richard is playing is inspiring.”

The trio of individual leaders are one shot ahead of Kevin Na (Iron Heads GC) and Carlos Ortiz (Torque). Seven players are two shots back, including Individual points leader Joaquin Niemann (Torque) and hometown favorite Patrick Reed (4Aces GC).

It came on a day in which 41 of the 54 players in the field broke par, with nine of those shooting bogey-free rounds, as the winds died down on a steamy afternoon at the Golf Club of Houston.

“When the wind dies around here, especially when it’s this hot, we’re going to be able to shoot a number,” said Reed.

For Surratt, the 65 is his lowest score relative to par in his 22 rounds since leaving the University of Tennessee as a 19-year-old teenager to join Jon Rahm’s expansion team.

He showed flashes in the first half of the season, especially during Legion’s two team wins. But he was still adjusting to life as a pro and spending too much time worried about things out of his control – social media chatter, expectations from outsiders, crowd sizes he had never seen before.

“That’s all stuff I title as noise,” Surratt said, who birdied six of his first 10 holes Friday. “… Once I started to let go of the things I can’t control, I’ve been a lot more free, and I’m very thankful for that.”

Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Houston. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. CLEEKS GC -17 (Kaymer 65, Meronk 65, Samooja 69)

2. TORQUE GC -14 (Ortiz 66, Niemann 67, Muñoz 69)

T3. RIPPER GC -12 (Leishman 67, Jones 68, Herbert 69)

T3. LEGION XIII -12 (Surratt 65, Rahm 69, Hatton 70)

T3. 4ACES GC -12 (Johnson 67, Reed 67, Varner III 70)

T3. FIREBALLS GC -12 (Garcia 67, Puig 68, Chacarra 69)

7. CRUSHERS GC -11 (Casey 67, DeChambeau 69, Lahiri 69)

T8. IRON HEADS -10 (Na 66, Lee 70, Kozuma 70)

T8. MAJESTICKS GC -10 (Poulter 67, Westwood 69, Stenson 70)

10. SMASH GC -6 (McDowell 69, Koepka 70, Kokrak 71)

T11. HYFLYERS GC -5 (Steele 70, Tringale 70, Mickelson 71)

T11. STINGER GC -5 (Oosthuizen 69, Schwartzel 70, Burmester 72)

13. RANGEGOATS GC -3 (Wolff 69, Pieters 70, Uihlein 74)


KAYMER ROUNDING INTO FORM: Cleeks GC Captain Martin Kaymer’s bogey-free 7-under 65 is his lowest round relative to par in LIV Golf. It’s the perfect continuation of a resurgence in play now that he’s no longer compromised by the wrist issues that have impacted his performance the last 18 months.

Kaymer entered LIV Golf Houston off back-to-back top-20 finishes in Adelaide and Singapore, his best two-start stretch since the inaugural 2022 season.

“It all started in Hong Kong and then I was getting better and better,” said Kaymer, whose round was fueled by four consecutive birdies starting on the first hole. “Little things, once they fall into place, then rounds like this can happen.

“I’m still not there where I would like to be, but it’s all fairly consistent now.”

The timing of Kaymer’s improved play couldn’t be better scripted. He’s one of 12 LIV Golf players in next week’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the place he dominated 10 years ago by 8 strokes for his second major title.

Not that he’s thinking about it this week in Houston.

“I still have to play two more rounds,” Kaymer said, “then my mindset will go to Pinehurst.”

SURRATT’S COURSE FAMILIARITY: Many players in the 54-man field have competed at the Golf Club of Houston when it hosted the Houston Open, but that’s been at least five years ago.

Caleb Surratt, the least experienced player in the field, might have the most recent course experience next to local resident Patrick Reed. While playing at the University of Tennessee, Surratt competed in a collegiate event 15 months ago at the course.

“It was definitely in a little different condition and a lot more fans and a little harder setup,” Surratt said of Friday’s return. “But I’ve seen the golf course and I feel comfortable.”

SPEAKING OF REED: The 4Aces GC star had a significant following of family, friends and fans en route to a 5-under 65 that leaves him in a seven-way tie for sixth entering the second round.

“Definitely gave me a lot of energy today to go out there and go shoot a number for them and play well,” said Reed. “Hopefully go out this weekend and continue that momentum.”

MERONK’S STRING MUSIC: Co-leader Adrian Meronk of Cleeks GC put together two strings of three consecutive birdies in his bogey-free 65. It’s his lowest round relative to par in LIV Golf since his 8-under 62 in the opening round at LIV Golf Jeddah.

PAST WINNERS: Five past winners of the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston are in the field this week.

Majesticks GC Co-Captain Ian Poulter (2018 winner) and Crushers GCs Paul Casey (2009 winner) had the lowest rounds Friday, each shooting a 5-under 67.

Ripper GC’s Matt Jones (2014 winner) shot 68 while HyFlyers GC Captain Phil Mickelson (2011 winner) shot 71.

Wild Card player Anthony Kim, whose 2010 Houston Open win was his last victory before retiring two years later, was 1-under until bogeying his final two holes to settle for a 73.

“Disappointing last 2 holes but saw so many positives today,” Kim wrote on his X account.

CATLIN MAKES LIV GOLF DEBUT: John Catlin, the Asian Tour points leader who is filling in for injured Crushers GC player Charles Howell III, shot a 1-under 71 in his first round at a LIV Golf tournament.

Driving accuracy: Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Lee, Brooks Koepka, 85.71% (12 of 14 fairways hit)
Driving distance: Carlos Ortiz, 336.5 yards avg.
Longest drive: Matthew Wolff, 361.4 yards, 13th hole
Greens in regulation: Paul Casey, Kalle Samooja, Mito Pereira, Brendan Steele, Henrik Stenson, John Catlin, 83.33% (15 of 18 greens)
Scrambling: Lucas Herbert (8 of 8), Adrian Meronk (8 of 8), Matt Jones (7 of 7), Louis Oosthuizen (7 of 7), Martin Kaymer (5 of 5), Joaquin Niemann (5 of 5), Caleb Surratt (4 of 4), Paul Casey (3 of 3), Henrik Stenson (3 of 3), 100%
Putting: Adrian Meronk, 1.22 putts per hole
Bogey-free rounds: Martin Kaymer (65), Adrian Meronk (65), Caleb Surratt (65), Joaquin Niemann (67), Paul Casey (67), Matt Jones (68), Louis Oosthuizen (69), Lucas Herbert (69), Henrik Stenson (70)

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