Ripper GC Captain Cameron Smith leads by one shot after the first round of LIV Golf London. (Photo by Charles Laberge/LIV Golf)


With his Open Championship defense looming in two weeks, Cameron Smith seems to be peaking at the right time. Friday’s opening round at LIV Golf London is the latest piece of evidence.

The Ripper GC captain shot a bogey-free 8-under 63 to grab a one-stroke lead over teammate Marc Leishman as LIV Golf made its return to Centurion Club, the host course for last year’s inaugural tournament. RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters is in solo third, three strokes back, while red-hot teammate Talor Gooch is in a three-way tie for fourth with HyFlyers GC’s Cameron Tringale and Majesticks GC’s Laurie Canter.

Thanks to Smith and Leishman, the all-Australian Rippers took the team lead at 13 under, with the RangeGoats at 10 under. The home favorite Majesticks are in solo third at 8 under.

Neither Aussie at the top of the leaderboard competed at Centurion Club last year, but they both looked comfortable on a sun-drenched day outside London.

“Wasn’t much bad stuff in there, to be honest,” said Smith, who posted Friday’s only bogey-free round. “… I feel like I’ve been on this kind of trend for a few months now.”

Smith has finished 12th or better in his last seven starts, including top 10s in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. Although he’s yet to win in 2023, Smith is building plenty of momentum going into Royal Liverpool.

“I think any tournament that Cam enters, he’s certainly a strong contender,” Leishman said. “I think playing this week is going to help him. The wind is very different, I feel like, in England and Scotland. It’s a lot heavier. Getting used to that is pretty important.”

Smith navigated the first six holes, the most difficult stretch at Centurion, in 1 under. Starting with the ninth hole, he birdied seven of the next nine holes before settling for par on the par-5 18th. He said the big difference Friday was getting more in sync with caddie Sam Pinfold.

“Sam and I worked really nice today, which is probably the first time in a long time where we really stuck it out and actually talked through some shots,” Smith said. “Probably something that had kind of been a missing piece to the puzzle. It was nice to figure that stuff out before another big tournament coming up.”

Marc Leishman of Ripper GC sits in second after the first round of LIV Golf London. (Photo by Richard Washbrooke/LIV Golf)

Leishman has struggled to find consistency this season but started hot on Friday. After a par on his opening hole, the 12th, he birdied six of the next seven holes before reaching the toughest part of the course.

“Happy to finally get a score on the board,” Leishman said. “It’s been a while.”

The two will play in the leaders group on Saturday with Pieters. But the group ahead of them will include the hottest LIV golfer in Gooch, who won his third tournament of the season last week in Andalucía and opened Friday with four birdies in his first five holes en route to his 11th round of the season at his target score of 67 or better.

“It was a good day,” said Gooch, who has won the last three LIV Golf tournaments held outside the U.S. “This golf course is not as easy as what Cam just made it look.”

Here are the standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf London. 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.1. RIPPER GC (-13): Cameron Smith 63, Marc Leishman 64, Matt Jones 73

2. RANGEGOATS GC (-10): Thomas Pieters 66, Talor Gooch 67, Bubba Watson 70

3. MAJESTICKS GC (-8): Laurie Canter 67, Ian Poulter 69, Henrik Stenson 69

4. HYFLYERS GC (-6): Cameron Tringale 67, James Piot 69, Brendan Steele 71

5. STINGER GC (-5): Branden Grace 68, Dean Burmester 70, Louis Oosthuizen 70

T6. CRUSHERS GC (-4): Anirban Lahiri 68, Bryson DeChambeau 70, Paul Casey 73

T6. FIREBALLS GC (-4): Abraham Ancer 68, Sergio Garcia 69, Eugenio Chacarra 72

8. 4ACES GC (-3): Patrick Reed 70, Peter Uihlein 70, Pat Perez 70

T9. SMASH GC (-2): Jason Kokrak 69, Chase Koepka 70, Brooks Koepka 72

T9. CLEEKS GC (-2): Richard Bland 68, Martin Kaymer 71, Bernd Wiesberger 72

11. TORQUE GC (E): Joaquin Niemann 69, Mito Pereira 71, David Puig 73

12. IRON HEADS GC (+6): Kevin Na 72, Sihwan Kim 73, Danny Lee 74