KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Peter Uihlein takes a one-shot lead going into the final day of the LIV Golf Invitational-Jeddah after going 7-under 63 in the second round on Saturday.
The American had seven birdies and an eagle to offset a double bogey on the 13th hole at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
Uihlein took over from former leader Brooks Koepka, who was 3-under at 67.
Sergio Garcia (64) and Charl Schwartzel (67) were three shots off the lead.
This is the seventh and final LIV Golf Invitational for individual and team play.
The final event of the inaugural season will take place in Miami in two weeks for teams of four.
LIV Golf is funded by the Public Investment Fund, but this is the first tournament held in Saudi Arabia after previous events in London, Portland, Bedminster, Boston, Chicago and Bangkok.
Garcia said his days on the European Tour could be over after he was fined by the Tour for withdrawing from a tournament.
The 2017 Masters champion and Ryder Cup stalwart said he felt “most welcomed and loved” at LIV, where he was one of the star attractions in his debut season.
Spaniard Garcia, 42, has reportedly been fined by the European Tour for failing to medically explain his withdrawal from the BMW PGA Championship last month after an opening run of 76.
“I don’t know. Right now it doesn’t look like it. But we’ll see,” said the 16-time European winner, when asked if he would play on the circuit again.
“At the end of the day, I want to play where people want me, where people are thrilled to have me and where I feel welcomed and loved.
“And right now it’s here, it’s LIV and I’m very excited about it.”
Garcia has three top-10 finishes so far in six events on the lucrative tour, which has divided golf and infuriated established tours by poaching top players for exorbitant fees.
The Spaniard, who is also team captain in the 54-hole uncut series, is tied for third on nine-under-par 131 behind leader Peter Uihlein at this week’s $25 million Jeddah Invitational.
Victory in the third round on Sunday would earn him at least $4 million, more than double the $1.98 million he pocketed for his famous victory in Augusta five years ago.
Garcia wore shorts and a left knee brace at the par-70 Royal Greens in the King Abdullah business city, and said he would have a CT scan next week to see if he needed meniscus surgery.
“It might need a little cleaning or something. I’ll know more next week when I get a good MRI and take a look at it,” Garcia said.
“It sucks because I’ve been very lucky with injuries throughout my career, I’ve been very healthy, and playing one isn’t the most enjoyable thing.”
Uihlein scored an eagle-birdie to edge fellow American and teammate Koepka one shot at the top of the standings with 12-128.
He said he preferred the team format – where players can also earn money based on their collective scores with three teammates – over the “lone wolf mentality” of the US PGA Tour.
South African Charl Schwartzel, who shares third place with Garcia and won the LIV opener in London, said it was impossible to compare the new circuit with the “prestige” of a major win.
“The Masters, winning a green jacket is the biggest achievement you can do in our game, I believe,” he said.
“I won a lot of money, it was fantastic,” added Schwartzel.
“But I can’t compare it to winning a green jacket.”