Johnson leads, Smith hot in LIV pursuit

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British Open champion Cameron Smith made a mid-round change to his putting approach and then climbed up the leaderboard on the opening day of the LIV series event in Chicago.

The world No.3 shot a six-under 66 on Friday to keep within range of hot leader Dustin Johnson, who reeled off nine birdies to lead by three.

After making just two birdies on his opening nine, Smith changed his approach at Rich Harvest Farms.

"I made an adjustment out there the last five or six holes," said the Australian.

"I just wasn't quite hitting them into the back of the hole. A little speed adjustment and a few started to go in."

Compatriot Matt Jones is also in contention, following his four-under 68. He is tied fourth along with Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Charles Howell III.

They are all chasing Johnson, who is already approaching $A15 million in the Saudi-funded series and playing like that number is going to keep soaring.

Johnson is coming off a playoff win two weeks ago outside Boston, and with his team having won the last two events, his earnings in four starts already is just under ($A15m). That's more than his best season on the PGA Tour over 22 starts.

Matthew Wolff had a 67, while Phil Mickelson had five birdies and might have been a little closer to Johnson except for his one mistake, and it was a big one.

He took triple bogey on the par-3 fifth hole, his sixth of the day in the shotgun start. He shot 70.

Johnson closed out the front nine with four straight birdies, three of the from eight feet or closer. He put on a clinic even with a week off and playing for only the sixth time in four months.

His one miss was on the par-5 18th and that only kept him from reaching in two. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt.

"I didn't hole a lot of putts outside 10 feet. I didn't have many long putts," Johnson said with a smile.

"I've got my swing in a nice groove," he said. "As long as I hit a couple of balls every other day, I can keep it there. Fortunately, I'm keeping it going right now."

Johnson and Talor Gooch, who birdied his first three holes and was one over the rest of the way for a 70, are the only players to have finished in the top 10 in all four LIV Golf Invitational events.

Twenty-seven players from the 48-man field broke par with David Puig, who gave up his senior year at Arizona State to turn pro this week, making a 73.

Patrick Reed also struggled, posting a 74 despite making three birdies and an eagle.