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They stood on the podium 13 months ago, a team of four South Africans, feeling pure joy but not quite 100% sure how to celebrate.

Charl Schwartzel had a champagne bottle in his hands and was ready to pop it open. Only one problem: He didn’t know the best method to shake it in order to maximize the spray.

“I had never really done that, so that was new to try to figure that out,” he said this week, laughing at the memory. “It was just new to golf. We’d never seen that. You see that in Formula 1 where they get podium finishes, and all of a sudden this is what LIV Golf has done.”

LIV Golf launched its beta-test Invitational Series at Centurion Club in June of 2022, a week worthy of its disruptive approach to traditional golf. Individuals also competed in teams, and the final result after 54 holes centred entirely on the fun-loving Saffas. Stinger GC won the team title by a resounding 14 strokes, which remains the largest winning margin in LIV Golf’s young history. Schwartzel won the individual title. Teammate Hennie du Plessis finished an unexpected second. And teammate Branden Grace took third. It was, in their words, a “fairy-tale start,” this sweep of the individual podium.

And it hasn’t been done since. Perhaps never will.

Entering this week’s return to LIV Golf London, 14 regular-season events have been played since the Stinger sweep. The only time members of the same team appeared on the individual podium happened last year in Jeddah when Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka beat then-teammate Peter Uihlein on the third playoff hole, giving Smash a 1-2 finish. In every other event, the individual podium has been filled with players from three different teams.

“I don’t think you can ever say ‘never see it again,’ but it was certainly a surprise to see the three Stingers up there on the podium,” said Majesticks GC co-captain Lee Westwood. “They were clearly going to win the team event that week.”

Since then, the quality of LIV Golf tournament fields has improved tremendously. Before the next event in Portland, major champions Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed joined LIV Golf, as did several other highly-ranked players. More major champions followed in the ensuing weeks, including Henrik Stenson and reigning Open champion Cameron Smith. Veteran players with winning credentials lifted the back end of rosters.

More than half of the LIV Golf lineup has been turned over since the debut London event, with just 23 players returning to Centurion Club this week. The 25 new players have combined to win 223 professional events across the globe. That increased depth spread across the 12 teams makes it more difficult to pull off the individual sweep.

“Obviously the depth of field has changed a huge amount in the last 12 months,” said original LIV golfer Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champ. “I think the major championship performances that we’ve seen from our players this year prove that we still have a lot of world-class players in this field. … Strength of field is incredible, and it really is difficult to get on the podium with these teams and with these guys because the standard of golf has been way better than I ever expected.”

“Everything is just getting stronger and better,” added Grace. “The teams are stronger now. There are hopefully more guys coming to make it even stronger. To finish 1-2-3 I don’t think is going to happen pretty soon, if ever, again.”

Even so, some teams certainly have improved their own depth, theoretically giving them a better chance to sweep the podium.

Consider RangeGoats GC. With Bubba Watson returning from knee surgery, Talor Gooch transferring from the 4Aces and Thomas Pieters joining in the offseason, the Goats have an upgraded roster in 2023 to go with holdover Harold Varner III. Not only do they enter London with five consecutive podium team finishes, they’re the only team with two different individual winners – Gooch with three wins, and Varner with one.

Or consider Crushers GC. Captain Bryson DeChambeau surrounded himself with veteran talent while working hard to return to his own lofty standards. This season, Charles Howell III won in Mayakoba, Anirban Lahiri finished second in Adelaide, and DeChambeau was runner-up last week in Andalucía. That’s three different podium finishes – just not in the same tournament.

Or consider 4Aces GC, the only other team to have three different players finishing on the podium this season. Captain Dustin Johnson won in Tulsa, transfer Peter Uihlein finished second in Mayakoba and Patrick Reed took third in Adelaide.

And certainly, you must consider Torque GC, the only team with multiple victories this season. Torque hasn’t had an individual winner, but Sebastian Munoz finished second in Orlando and Mito Pereira took third in Andalucía. Captain Joaquin Niemann is a threat each time out, and 21-year-old David Puig has produced his two best LIV Golf results in his last two starts.

“Torque has done a great job,” said Majesticks co-captain Ian Poulter. “RangeGoats obviously transitioning to get Talor Gooch was clearly a very good idea. He’s been pretty impressive. DJ and Brooks and — there are so many good, solid teams. … There is strength and depth between all of the teams, and it’s impressive to see. It’s good for the fans, as well, to see not the same team winning every single week.”

Last week after Torque won its third team title, Niemann was asked about the potential of a podium sweep by his team. He originally thought the question concerned the end-of-season Individual Champion race, not even fathoming a single-tournament sweep. Upon getting clarification, Niemann’s eyes lit up. “That would be sweet.”

Added teammate Sebastian Munoz: “We definitely take it as a challenge. We’re motivated to get there, as well.”

Thus far, it’s only been done once. And not even the winning podium lineup from 2022 is the same for the Stingers. Dean Burmester is the new face in place of du Plessis, and he already has a podium result, a third in Orlando, to go with Grace’s three podium finishes this year.

The Stingers enter this week with good vibes and good memories. Schwartzel is well-versed in champagne celebrations, and his team would love nothing more than a repeat performance. It won’t be easy.

“Yeah, I don’t think you’ll see it again,” Schwartzel said. “I suppose you never say never, but it was an awesome week for everybody and just happened to have the same team, same guys play really well. I guess we got lucky that week, and we had a great time. We’ll always keep trying to do that, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen.”

Oosthuizen, the odd man out on the individual podium, recalled thinking last year as he sprayed his teammates with champagne, “I don’t know how we’re going to ever top this.”

This week, he’ll gladly settle for simply matching it.