Bland, Grace, Lopez-Chacarra tied for LIV lead

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BANGKOK — Richard Bland, Branden Grace and Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra upstaged their more illustrious opponents Friday to shoot 7-under 65s and share the lead after the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational-Bangkok.

Marc Leishman and Ian Poulter were a stroke behind and Sihwan Kim, Brooks Koepka and Jediah Morgan were among those 2 behind in the 54-hole event.

The tournament is being played on the new Stonehill Golf Club north of downtown Bangkok. The course, created by American designer Kyle Phillips, opened this year.

Dustin Johnson, who leads the money list with just over $12.5 million in five events, shot 70. British Open champion Cameron Smith — who won the last LIV event, in Chicago in mid-September — shot 72.

It’s the first time LIV Golf is being played outside the United States since its inaugural event in early June near London.

Before the start of play, players learned that they still won’t accrue world ranking points on the LIV series. The Official World Golf Ranking said via a statement Thursday that it had denied the MENA Tour’s request to immediately add the Saudi-funded series to its schedule.

The OWGR said that the MENA Tour did not give it sufficient notice and that there would not be time to finish the review ahead of the Bangkok tournament or next week’s event in Saudi Arabia.

LIV Golf created an alliance with the little-known MENA Tour, which hasn’t run a tournament of its own since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. MENA stands for Middle East and North Africa, and the MENA Tour is a developmental tour that has been getting the bare minimum of world ranking points since 2016. It has 54-hole events with a 36-hole cut, offering a $75,000 purse.

“I don’t think it really was much of a response. I just hate when you sit on the fence. Just pick a side,” Koepka said Friday. “If it’s yes or no, just pick one. So I’m not a big fan of that.”

Bryson DeChambeau, who shot 69 Friday, said the decision by the rankings group was only “delaying the inevitable.”

“We’ve hit every mark in their criteria, so for us not to get points is kind of crazy with having the top — at least I believe we have the top — players in the world,” DeChambeau said. “We certainly believe that there’s enough that are in the top 50, and we deserve to be getting world ranking points. When they keep holding it back, they’re going to just keep playing a waiting game.”

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