LIV Golf Series: Charl Schwartzel upstages Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson on opening day

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LIV Golf Series: Charl Schwartzel upstages Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson on opening day
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All eyes had been on Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson but the highly paid star turns of LIV Golf were upstaged on the opening day of the inaugural event by South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel.

The former Masters champion carded a five-under par round of 65 to take the lead on the first of three days of golf’s divisive new series.

Playing in the all-South Africa Stingers team, his teammate Hennie du Plessis was a shot back in second to give them a comfortable lead in the sideshow of the team competition.

Neither Mickelson nor Johnson were at the peak of the game but still scrambled their way into contention to be one-under par after the opening 18 holes.

As the 48-man field took to the course at Centurion Golf Club, golf’s infighting continued over the rebels from the PGA and DP World Tours.

While the European counterparts remained tight-lipped on what action, if any, they will take against the likes of those breaking ranks, the PGA Tour announced all 17 of its players in the LIV field had been suspended from playing any PGA Tour event for the foreseeable future.

Some, like Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, had already resigned their tour memberships while Mickelson had forewarned he fully intends to fight to keep his lifetime membership.

The lawyers look the likeliest to profit from the ongoing legal fighting, so too the likes of Mickelson and Johnson, who are reported to have pocketed sums running in excess of £100million each.

Playing in the same group, the American duo were clearly the star attraction as they were welcomed to the first tee by a local band dressed as Grenadier guards and an overhead fly-by from old fighter planes.

For a 51-year-old who had not played competitive golf for four months since his golfing timeout after describing LIV’s Saudi backers as “scary mother*******”, Mickelson nicely found his rhythm on the back nine with three birdies following a birdie, bogey and double bogey on a fluctuating front nine.

His birdie putt on the 18th came up just a few short but he remains in contention for the $4million top prize going into the final two days following a 69.

Afterwards, Mickelson said: "I really enjoyed today. It was fun for me to get back out playing. I struck the ball really well and didn’t putt very well. But I fought back to get right in after the first day. It’s important to have that good first day. Now I’ve had my first competitive round after a few months I think I’m ready to relax and put it together.”

Of the strugglers among the established names, Ryder Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter and Westwood both ended up on five-over par.

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