Smith finished 35th last week at The Greenbrier. He had never been to the Trump National course at Bedminster — Smith joined LIV Golf a month after the event last year at Trump National — but he found the course and his game more to his liking.
“Just a really solid round,” Smith said. “Wasn’t out of position much. Maybe missed a few fairways, but found myself on the green most of the times and having a look at birdie. A little bit different to last week, which was the goal, especially today.”
Howell had the lead for part of the day until making two bogeys over his last four holes, one of them on a par 5. Howell, like Smith, has one LIV victory this year. He won the season opener at Mayakoba, but has had only two top 10s his last nine starts.
Bryson DeChambeau, coming off a 58 on the final day at The Greenbrier, was 15 shots worse at Trump National. He opened with a 73.
Phil Mickelson got off to a sluggish start with two bogeys on his opening holes. He limited the mistakes from there and salvaged a 70.
The round came one day after gambler Billy Walters released an excerpt from his book that claimed Mickelson placed more than $1 billion in wagers over the last 30 years and wanted Walters to place a $400,000 bet on the 2012 Ryder Cup in which Mickelson played. Mickelson said he has never bet on the Ryder Cup.
“Yeah, I’ve known President Trump for quite a while,” Johnson said. “I won Doral when it was there at Trump. He’s in Palm Beach, so we play a good bit of golf together. We’ve had a nice friendship over the years.”