The 38-year-old American took advantage of a bogey-free 18 holes to start the 54-hole event at Rich harvest farmswith the winner expected to raise $4 million out of a $25 million purse.
“I hit the ball really well,” Johnson said. “I hit him really close. I putted a lot of shots from under 10 feet.”
Australia in third place Cameron Smithwho won the British Open in July at St. Andrews, finished second out of 66.
“I was hitting good putts but they weren’t going in,” Smith said. “At the end they started to come in. Hopefully I can keep going.”
How it goes after the first round ✅ 1️⃣ – @DJohnsonPGA 2️⃣ – Cameron Smith3️⃣ – @matthew_wolff5 #LIVGolf… https://t.co/HeookGSCgO
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) 1663383474000
American Matthew Wolff finished third in 67, with Swede Henrik Stenson, Englishman Lee Westwood, American Charles Howell and Australian Matt Jones tied for fourth in 68.
“It was a good day,” Howell said. “The wind has picked up. It’s drawing your attention to some of the holes.”
The Saudi-backed upstart series has caused turmoil in the Golf world as several high-profile stars defected from the US PGA Tour to the rival Tour, prompting the PGA to ban former members indefinitely.
Johnson, fresh off his first win at LIV Golf two weeks ago in Boston, started the first tee off the shotgun and birdied the par-5 second and third holes.
Johnson, the 2020 Masters and 2016 US Open champion, had four straight birdies starting in the sixth and followed by a 10-footer at seven, a 12-footer at eight and a six-footer at ninth.
Over the trees, over the green and still birdies….it was that kind of day for DJ 👏#LIVGolf #LIVGolfChicago… https://t.co/B9rxso6Mse
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) 1663381922000
After finding the edge of the green rough at the par-5 11th, Johnson jumped two feet and tapped for a birdie, then sank a 10-foot birdie putt at 12.
Johnson threatened Englishman Lee Westwood’s LIV Golf record 62 low round in the final round in Boston, but had five pars and a five-foot putt on the 15th to close the round.
Johnson’s lowest PGA round was an 11 under 60 in the second round in 2020 at TPC Boston en route to winning the PGA Northern Trust.
This is the fifth of eight LIV Golf events this season, with October tournaments in Bangkok, Jeddah and a $50 million season-ending tag team championship in Miami.