By Matt Smith
As we prepare for Fridays shotgun start in the fifth LIV Golf event of the iaugural season, here is a quick glance at each team and their chances at Rich Harvest Farms, outside Chicago.
In lifting the team trophy for the third consecutive LIV Golf event, 4 Aces also captured the individual title for the first time, with captain Dustin Johnson winning a three-man playoff on the first hole with a lengthy eagle putt. In the 21 counting rounds in their three wins, the all-American foursome of Johnson, Talor Gooch, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez are a cumulative 80-under, with 20 of those rounds under par (and the other at even par). The current line-up has yet to be beaten on American soil. A dynasty in the making, indeed.
For the second time this season — but the first time since Bryson DeChambeau became captain — the Crushers finished second in the team competition. Adding LIV Golf newcomer Anirban Lahiri to the line-up paid immediate dividends, as India’s top-ranked golfer made the three-man playoff and finished second individually. With a veteran-laden line-up that also includes Paul Casey and Charles Howell III, DeChambeau has a roster that expects to be in the mix every time out.
Captain Lee Westwood’s team was dealt a big blow minutes before the start of the Boston tournament when Swedish star Henrik Stenson — coming off his individual win in Bedminster in his LIV Golf debut — was forced to withdraw due to vertigo. But Jordanian teenager Shergo Al Kurdi filled in admirably, while Westwood maintained his hot hand, shooting a LIV Golf-record low 62 in the final round as Majesticks secured their third podium finish of the season. Stenson is back for Chicago to join Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sam Horsfield in a foursome riding plenty of momentum.
Midway through the final round in Boston, Kevin Na’s squad held a five-stroke lead and seemed on the verge of breaking 4 Aces’ stranglehold on the top. Although the Iron Heads struggled down the stretch to finish outside the money, Na and teammates Sadom Kaewkanjana, Phachara Khongwatmai and Sihwan Kim — the latter producing an amazing 24-shot improvement from the first to the second round -— showed they are capable of making serious noise.
New LIV Golf member Joaquin Niemann set the tone for his team in Boston, vying for the individual title as part of the three-man playoff. As the Torque captain, Niemann also was pleased to see Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent and Australia’s Jediah Morgan produce some low scores. For Chicago, Torque will undergo a line-up adjustment, as young star David Puig from Spain replaces Spanish veteran Adrian Otaegui.
For the first time with their current line-up, captain Sergio Garcia’s team did not finish in the top three, as the all-Spanish-speaking foursome finished sixth in Boston. Still, there were some encouraging signs. Abraham Ancer produced his best performance as a LIV member, and Garcia joined him inside the top 10 on the individual leaderboard. Carlos Ortiz and rookie Eugenio Chacarra also finished under par, one of just four teams in Boston to have four under-par results. Fireballs will be looking to return to the podium in Chicago.
The all-Australian team led by then-world No. 2 Cameron Smith entered Sunday’s final round in Boston in fourth place before drifting back to seventh on the final leaderboard. Even so, there were plenty of positive elements. Smith finished just one stroke out of the playoffs, Marc Leishman chipped in with a 65, and Matt Jones contributed three counting rounds for the third consecutive start. Wade Ormsby rounds out the improved Punch .
For the first two rounds in Boston, Phil Mickelson’s squad were certainly flying high, just three strokes off the lead entering Sunday and sitting in second place. Hy Flyers fell back to Earth on Sunday, but Mickelson is buoyed by what he saw. Cameron Tringale was solid in his LIV Golf debut, Bernd Wiesberger had his best result, and Matthew Wolff can go low at a moment’s notice (he shot an opening 63 to share the first-round lead).
For the first time this season, Smash saw one of their players finish inside the top 10 on the individual leaderboard, with Jason Kokrak taking seventh overall in his second LIV Golf start. Captain Brooks Koepka produced three rounds of par or better, and his brother Chase chipped in with a 66 on Sunday. Peter Uihlein rounds out the all-American roster that seems overdue to make some noise.
After winning by 14 strokes in the inaugural event in London and finishing second in Portland, the all-South African team has finished outside the podium in the last two tournaments. The 10th-place finish in Boston was the first time Stinger had been in the bottom half on the team leaderboard. Captain Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace carried the team with a combined 19-under, while London winner Charl Schwartzel and Shaun Norris will look for better results in Chicago.
Although captain Martin Kaymer’s all-European team finished 11th, there were some positive signs in Boston. Three of the four Cleeks players finished under par — good news for a team in which just one player finished under par in the first three tournaments. Kaymer has produced 11 consecutive counting scores, while Englishmen Richard Bland and Laurie Canter finished with final-round 66s. Once veteran Graeme McDowell returns to his London level, where he finished 10th, Cleeks should make a move up the standings.
Non-playing captain Bubba Watson, still rehabilitating after knee surgery, knows his all-American team has work to do. Niblicks was the only team to not finish double-digits under par, finishing 14 strokes behind their nearest competitors and 25 strokes outside the top three. New LIV Golf member Harold Varner III delivered a solid under-par effort, and Watson will hope for improved play from Hudson Swafford, Turk Pettit and James Piot.
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