BOLTON, Mass. – The International golf club has made a great first impression with the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Golfers playing on the first-year tour had their initial look at the International’s Oaks Course this week.
“I think the golf course is really quite nice,” said Cameron Smith after carding a 6-under 64 in the opening round on Friday. “I think over the next couple days as it firms up a little bit, it’ll play probably a little bit harder. I think the fairways are generous, but off the fairways they’re quite penal. Yeah, it’s a really good test. You have to keep the ball in play, and the greens have a lot of pitch to them, too, so you have to be pretty smart into the greens.”
Matt Wolff, who on Friday shot a 7-under 63 and carded the first hole-in-one in LIV Golf’s short history of four events, also raved about the course.
“Yeah, I think it’s great,” he said. “I mean, it’s mint. It’s in perfect, perfect condition. The greens are really good. If you get a ball rolling on line, most of the time it’s going to go in. Just like he (Smith) said, the greens are really sloped, and the fairways are wide, but you’ve just got to keep the ball in play. I hit a lot of 3-woods out there. I just felt comfortable with that club, and I just made sure to keep it in front of me.”
Wolff has enjoyed playing at the International, hole in one or not.
“Out here,” he said, “it just feels like everyone is having a really good time. I’m having a really good time. I don’t know about you, it’s just everyone is having a blast.”
The International was the site of another LIV Golf first on Saturday when golfers were allowed to wear shorts for the first time. Some took advantage, some didn’t.
Allowing shorts is only one way that LIV Golf tries to be different from the PGA Tour. LIV Golf fields have shotgun starts and consist of only 48 golfers who play just 54 holes. There’s no cut. A lot more money is at stake as well. Purses are $25 million with $4 million going to the individual champion and $3 million being shared by the winning four-man team.
Another big difference is that music blares on the driving range while players warm up and plays throughout the course during competition.
“I feel like the crowd out there is almost on top of you with the music,” Smith said. “It feels like the course has a bit of a heartbeat. Yeah, it was very different I would say, but something that I really enjoyed, and I can’t wait for this to keep going onwards and upwards.”
Joaquin Niemann also made his LIV Golf debut this week and he played in the first two rounds with Talor Gooch.
“It was so much fun,” he said. “I was talking the whole round with Talor how nice it is to have a competitive golf round where you’re really into it and you hit a bad shot or a good shot when you’re walking and hear the music and have a different mood. I was surprised how young the whole crowd was. Yeah, it was a lot of electric atmosphere, so it was fun.”
The International has impressed Niemann.
“I love this course,” he said. “I like how you are on the tee box and you only see one hole. Normally you see a lot of grass all over the place, and here you’ve got a lot of trees and a lot of danger if you hit a bad shot.”
Gooch said the Oaks Course reminded him of Karsten Creek, the course he played when he attended Oklahoma State.
“It’s kind of similar from a sense of the only hole you see is the one you’re playing,” Gooch said, “and you have some room, but if you hit a bad shot, it’s going to be costly. I really like it.”
Gooch also liked the fans.
“You always think of Boston,” he said, “you think of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, so you just think of what great sports fans Bostonians have. It was a really, really cool atmosphere, and not too much heckling, which you always expect a little bit from Boston, so it was a blast.”
Gooch said there can’t be enough music as far as he’s concerned.
“I keep telling people,” he said, “when every golfer is at home just golfing with your buddies, we all have music going. That’s just what we do. I love it, and his (Niemann’s) smile coming down the first hole showed me that he loved it, too.”
“But I would love to see some reggaeton music, Bad Bunny or something,” Niemann said.
Gooch prefers the sound of music over comments from the crowd.
“That’s where it can get a little bit distracting,” he said, “when it’s an off sound where someone drops a phone or a phone goes off or someone starts talking to a buddy versus the music that’s just going the whole time.”