Golf: Schwartzel wins LIV opener to pocket US$4m jackpot

Charl Schwartzel celebrates with the trophy after winning the opening event of the LIV Invitational Series. PHOTO: AFP

ST ALBANS (REUTERS) - South Africa's Charl Schwartzel held off compatriot Hennie Du Plessis to claim the biggest pay cheque in golf history at the opening event of the LIV Invitational Series on Saturday (June 11).

The 37-year-old led by three strokes going into the third and final round at the Centurion course north of London, and consolidated with a round of 72 to seal the US$4 million (S$5.5 million) prize.

Schwartzel, whose previous highest pay cheque was the US$1.4 million he scooped for winning the 2011 Masters, ended up on seven-under with Du Plessis finishing one stroke back.

Another South African, Branden Grace, finished third on five under.

All three were playing for the Stingers team who easily won the team element of the new series.

"You know, it's a relief," Schwartzel said. "I had it in my hands but I made it a bit more difficult than it should have been. The (organisers) put up an amazing show, the kind of money they put up for us is out of this world."

Schwartzel's victory ended a tumultuous launch week for the breakaway circuit which is backed to the tune of US$250 million by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Organisers will point to decent-sized crowds, plenty of glitz and the presence of big names including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.

Although the first of eight events has been as much about a developing power struggle off the course and accusations of Saudi "sportswashing" and greed as the action on it.

On Thursday, the PGA Tour announced it had suspended players taking part in the LIV series - a move LIV organisers described as vindictive and which could lead to a legal battle.

The PGA suspension and the prospect of being ineligible for the Ryder Cup has not stopped more players turning their back on the PGA Tour with major champion Bryson DeChambeau joining the bandwagon on Friday and fellow American Patrick Reed following suit on Saturday.

Both will make their debuts at the second event of the series in Portland, Oregon later this month.

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