In the last two LIV Golf tournaments, as Torque GC celebrated its team victory, the oldest member of the lineup – 30-year-old Sebastian Munoz – took a spill once champagne bottles were popped.
When it happened Sunday at LIV Golf Andalucia, teammate Mito Pereira let out a cry. “Sebastian went down again!”
Luckily, no injuries were incurred. “Harmless,” Munoz confirmed a few minutes later.
The key element in all this is that Munoz -– and, by extension, his Torque teammates, captained by Joaquin Niemann – are getting plenty of practice in the art of champagne celebrations.
In the last six regular-season events, Torque has won three times (including the last two) and are the only team to post multiple wins in 2023. Their most recent victory was the most dominant – five strokes Sunday at Valderrama. On a tough course that offered few low numbers, Torque was the only team to post all three counting scores in the 60s in any single round.
Their domination is starting to mirror the success 4Aces GC enjoyed last season after captain Dustin Johnson revamped his lineup following the inaugural event in London -– and subsequently reeled off four consecutive wins and ultimately the Team Championship.
Now it’s a year later and LIV Golf returns to London, with the Centurion Club becoming the first course to repeat as host. The hottest team is not the 4Aces (although they top the point standings) but Torque, the League’s youngest team that has also benefitted from a revamped lineup.
In the offseason, the 24-year-old Niemann added his fellow Chilean Mito Pereira (age 28) and another South American friend in Munoz from Colombia, while locking down David Puig, the emerging Spanish star – and the only member of the foursome who played in London last year.
At the time of LIV Golf’s debut, Niemann had not yet become a member, Pereira had opened eyes with his near-miss at the PGA Championship, and Munoz was coming off his best major result, a top-15 finish at the U.S. Open that would ultimately help earn him a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup. Meanwhile, Puig was still an amateur, having just completed his junior season at Arizona State. He played for Sergio Garcia’s Fireballs GC that week in London.
“It’s so crazy to think a year ago where our lives were, where we were as different individuals, not knowing what was going to happen,” Munoz said. “Then the idea kind of started, and we started talking about it. It was a dream.
“We said yeah, here we go, we’ve got to take advantage that we’re kind of in our prime, to be honest. So, we’ve got to take advantage of our strengths, and really try to kick ass out there. We did envision it, and it’s really nice to be living the dream.”
That dream definitely has become reality, and quickly, particularly in terms of chemistry. It helps that they’re young. That they all converse in Spanish. And that they hit it a mile.
Well, at least three of them do.
Puig’s driving distance average is 315.2 yards this season; Pereira’s is 313.1; Niemann’s is 312.8. That ranks them 3-4-5 in the season-long stats. And Munoz? He’s averaging 303.5 yards per drive, tied for 22nd in the League. That might subject him to some grief – except that he’s the team leader in points produced, ranking 6th in the League after consecutive top-4 finishes.
“Sebastian is always complaining about his distance,” Niemann said, “and it’s him who’s been playing the best. So, I don’t think it’s the distance.”
Added Munoz: “It’s weird because I’m the oldest and the slowest, but somehow I’ve been able to put these rounds together and help the team a lot, so really appreciative of just our mental strength.”
A sign of that mental strength can be seen in Puig’s growing confidence, especially when the pressure is maximized on Sundays.
At LIV Golf DC, Puig tied for the low final round in the field, shooting a 6-under 66 after getting a pep talk from Niemann. Puig then final-qualified for the U.S. Open, made the cut, and shot a final-round 67 that included four consecutive birdies on the back nine. And on Sunday at Valderrama in front of family and friends in his native country, he shot a 2-under 69 to go with the 68s by Niemann and Munoz.
“In my case, there’s no pressure, honestly,” said Puig, who’s able to rely on the consistency of his older teammates.
Along with its three wins, Torque also finished third in the opening event in Mayakoba. But because they’ve lacked the consistency of the 4Aces, they find themselves still in chase mode going into London.
While the goal is to secure one of the first-round byes for the Team Championship, the biggest objective is to dethrone the 4Aces and win the League’s biggest prize.
“Once we click, the four of us at the same time,” Munoz said, “we’re going to be pretty dangerous.”
They’re already dangerous. Perhaps the only thing that can stop them is an injury during a champagne fall. Someone, please keep an eye on Munoz once the corks are popped.