SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (LIV Golf) — Thanks to a brilliant 8-under 63, Torque GC’s Sebastián Muñoz will take a three-shot lead entering Sunday’s final round of LIV Golf Chicago. Now comes the difficult part – converting that lead into a victory at Rich Harvest Farms.
That’s been an issue for the 30-year-old from Colombia, whose best individual finish since joining LIV Golf this season was second place in Orlando.
“I don’t want to take care of the lead because I don’t have good experiences with that in the past,” said Muñoz, whose last professional win came in 2019. “… It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be challenging, especially for me talking about it now. But I’m going to do what I’ve been doing.”
One of five co-leaders after the first round, Muñoz opened his second round Saturday with three birdies before holing his second shot at the par-4 fifth hole from 123 yards for eagle. It was the first of two eagles in his round, the other coming at the par-5 10th.
The 63 left him at 13 under, three shots ahead of Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot his second consecutive 66 to move to 10 under. Three players – 4Aces GC Captain Dustin Johnson, Fireballs GC’s Abraham Ancer, and RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters – are five strokes back at 8 under.
Fueled by Muñoz’s low round, Torque moved into a tie for the team lead at 22 under, with David Puig (68) and Mito Pereira (70) also supplying counting scores. The Fireballs also are at 22 under after counting scores from Ancer, Carlos Ortiz (68), and Eugenio Chacarra (69). The Aces and Crushers share third at 18 under.
Torque will be seeking its fifth team victory of the season. If that happens and the Aces finish no better than third, then Torque will assume the lead in the season-long team standings.
Meanwhile, Muñoz will seek to deliver the team’s first individual trophy. “It’s time for an individual win for us,” he said.
From Lahiri’s perspective, it’s also time for him to end his individual drought. His last professional win was in February 2015 when he won twice that month.
He’s been close to ending the drought since joining LIV Golf last year, finishing second in Boston in his debut event, and adding two more runner-up finishes this season – three shots behind Talor Gooch in Adelaide and seven strokes behind Cameron Smith last month in Bedminster.
“I’ve had a few too many seconds,” said Lahiri, who opened with an eagle Saturday en route to a bogey-free round. “… I can’t control what Sebastián or anyone else does, so I’m just going to focus on my process and what I’m trying to do on the golf course.”
Of the top five players on the leaderboard, three still have a chance to finish the season-long individual race inside the bonus-paying top three. Johnson, the defending Individual Champion, is currently eighth in points, while Muñoz is 12th and Lahiri 15th.
Based on the second-round leaderboard, Muñoz is projected to move into third place.
Four rounds are left in the regular season – Sunday’s final round in Chicago and next month’s LIV Golf Jeddah, which will be followed by the Team Championship in Miami.
TEAM COUNTING SCORES
Here are the standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Chicago. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
T1. TORQUE GC (-22): Sebastián Muñoz 63, David Puig 68, Mito Pereira 70 (Rd. 2 score: -12)
T1. FIREBALLS GC (-22): Abraham Ancer 66, Carlos Ortiz 68, Eugenio Chacarra 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)
T3. 4ACES GC (-18): Dustin Johnson 66, Peter Uihlein 69, Pat Perez 70 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
T3. CRUSHERS GC (-18): Anirban Lahiri 66, Bryson DeChambeau 69, Paul Casey 72 (Rd. 2 score: -6)
5. RANGEGOATS GC (-17): Talor Gooch 67, Thomas Pieters 67, Harold Varner III 71 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
T6. MAJESTICKS GC (-16): Ian Poulter 67, Henrik Stenson 67, Lee Westwood 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)
T6. STINGER GC (-16): Dean Burmester 69, Louis Oosthuizen 70, Charl Schwartzel 71 (Rd. 2 score: -3)
8. RIPPER GC (-15): Marc Leishman 68, Matt Jones 70, Cameron Smith 71 (Rd. 2 score: -4)
9. SMASH GC (-11): Brooks Koepka 69, Jason Kokrak 71, Chase Koepka 72 (Rd. 2 score: -1)
T10. CLEEKS GC (-10): Richard Bland 66, Martin Kaymer 69, Graeme McDowell 69 (Rd. 2 score: -9)
T10. HYFLYERS GC (-10): Phil Mickelson 68, Brendan Steele 68, James Piot 69 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
12. IRON HEADS GC (-4): Scott Vincent 69, Kevin Na 70, Sihwan Kim 73 (Rd. 2 score: -1)
DJ SURPRISES HIMSELF – 4Aces GC Captain Dustin Johnson used the five-week break since LIV Golf’s last tournament in Bedminster to rest and relax. It seems to have served him well, as he will enter Sunday’s final round of LIV Golf Chicago tied for third at 8 under.
“Hitting it better than I thought I would probably this week, to be honest,” said the 39-year-old Johnson. “I rested a lot the last five weeks. I’m getting old, though; I’ve got to do that.”
Johnson shot 68 on Friday and 66 on Saturday, a score that could’ve been much better were it not for at least four lip-outs.
“If they’re lipping out, I’m hitting good putts, that’s fine,” Johnson said. “At least they’ve got a chance to go in or at least I’m watching them the whole time. The worst is when as soon as you hit it, you’re walking after it. I hit a lot of nice putts. Hopefully more of the same tomorrow and instead of lipping out, they’ll lip in.”
ANCER BACK IN FORM – Abraham Ancer’s 2023 season started on a high note with an Asian Tour victory in February at the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.
But the form didn’t carry over – until recently. He finished third at Bedminster last month, his best result since joining LIV. And now he’s tied for third through two rounds in Chicago.
“I felt like it was going to be guns blazing here coming into the LIV season and didn’t really go my way,” Ancer said. “I feel like this season is the one that I’ve worked the hardest my whole career, but that’s kind of how it goes.”
MUÑOZ 10 YEARS AGO – Sebastián Muñoz wasn’t a member of LIV Golf last year when Rich Harvest Farms hosted the Chicago tournament. But he did play the course 10 years ago during his college days at the University of North Texas.
“I had fond memories of this place, so it just clicks,” Muñoz said. “It just put me, I think, in a good mental state.”
Saturday’s 63 is his lowest round this season since he opened with a 62 in Orlando, a tournament in which he finished second by one shot to Brooks Koepka.
“I didn’t know I was going to go this low; of course not,” Muñoz said. “Especially after I was 5-under today through 5, there was no way I would have believed I was 10-under through 23 holes. It’s just one of those surprises that I’ll take gladly.”
QUICK IMPACT FOR NEW SCORECARD PROCEDURE – LIV Golf’s new scorecard signing process that made its debut this week in Chicago has made an immediate and positive impact.
Instead of returning to a scoring tent following their rounds, players now sign their scorecards after their rounds at their finishing holes before being escorted back to the clubhouse via carts.
After the first round in Chicago, scoring verification for each player took three minutes, a significant reduction from the previous average time of 20 minutes.
In addition, there were no issues or infringements with the process, and groupings for the next round were delivered in a more expeditious manner.
RD. 2 STAT LEADERS
Driving distance – Bryson DeChambeau, 338.0-yard average
Longest drive – Bryson DeChambeau, 381.2 yards (10th hole)
Driving accuracy – Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Henrik Stenson, 86% (12 of 14)
Greens in regulation – Kevin Na, Bubba Watson, 89% (16 of 18)
Scrambling – Phil Mickelson (6 of 6), Ian Poulter (6 of 6), David Puig (5 of 5), Anirban Lahiri (3 of 3), Henrik Stenson (3 of 3), Kevin Na (2 of 2), 100%
Fewest putts – Sebastián Muñoz, 21 putts
Most birdies – Dustin Johnson, 7
Bogey-free rounds – Anirban Lahiri (66), Henrik Stenson (67), Phil Mickelson (68)