2022 SEASON IN REVIEW: CLEEKS GC
Written by MIKE MCALLISTER
This 2022 review of Cleeks GC is part of a series of stories looking back at each of the 12 teams during the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational season.
PREVIOUS: Majesticks | Fireballs | Iron Heads | Hy Flyers | Torque | Niblicks
Meet the Cleeks – the United Nations of LIV Golf teams. Of the 11 different players who made at least one team appearance, eight different countries were represented. That made it challenging for captain Martin Kaymer to achieve optimum compatibility. So did the constant roster overhaul, with different lineups for each of the first four events.
Not until the Cleeks settled into an All-European roster of Kaymer (Germany), Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland), Richard Bland and Laurie Canter (both from England) did they get into a rhythm – and even then, it took awhile. Finally in Bangkok, the Cleeks broke through with their only podium finish of the regular season, led by Bland. The 49-year-old finished fourth in points at Stonehill, the only top 10 points finish in any tournament for a Cleeks player. (Side note: Canter had two 11th place points finishes, although on the scoring leaderboard he finished top 10 each time.)
One more hurdle remained for the Cleeks, as Kaymer suffered a wrist injury in Jeddah and was unable to play in the Team Championship in Miami. Replacement player Shergo Al Kurdi, the 19-year-old from Jordan (yep, the eighth and final country represented), filled in. Yet the Cleeks had one more big day left, as they upset Torque GC in the quarterfinals. McDowell and Bland, partners that day in foursomes, were emotional after their hard-fought win. For a year full of challenges and changes, it was a nice memory to take into the offseason.
Captain Martin Kaymer drafted Pablo Larrazabal, J.C. Ritchie and Ian Snyman for the inaugural event in London. Turk Pettit and Scott Vincent replaced Larrazabal and Ritchie in the Portland lineup. Kaymer then had another roster overhaul at Bedminster, as former Niblicks GC captain Graeme McDowell joined the club, along with Laurie Canter and then-amateur David Puig. Richard Bland then transferred from Smash GC to replace Puig in the Boston lineup. From there, the Kaymer-McDowell-Canter-Bland lineup stayed intact for the remainder of the regular season. However, at the Team Championship in Miami, Kaymer had to WD due to a wrist injury. Replacement player Shergo Al Kurdi took his spot in the captain's playing position for the two match-play rounds.
Cleeks GC starts
Shergo Al Kurdi
TEAM: Richard Bland struggled to hold back tears of joys after he and partner Graeme McDowell knocked off the Torque GC duo of Adrian Otaegui and Scott Vincent (a former Cleek) in foursomes during the quarterfinals in Miami. G-Mac, of course, has plenty of match-play experience, but Bland had gone 30 years playing strictly stroke-play. “He was just clutch all day,” Bland said of McDowell. “I love this dude next to me.” Laurie Canter was equally impressive in his singles win over Jediah Morgan, making a clutch birdie on the decisive final hole as Cleeks – despite the absence of injured Martin Kaymer – won two matches to advance to the semifinals.
INDIVIDUAL: Although the Cleeks were knocked out by the eventual champion 4 Aces GC in the semifinals of the Team Championship, Laurie Canter won his second consecutive singles match. This time, it came against Patrick Reed, a player with well-documented success in match-play events. Canter won three consecutive holes midway in the match to take control, and then held off Reed in a tense duel down the stretch.
RICHARD BLAND. The Englishman found a home on Kaymer's team, and in the last four regular-season events, he was the team's top performer with a scoring average of 68.7 (nearly two strokes higher than his full-season average). He also authored the team's best individual performance, shooting 15 under in Bangkok to claim fourth place in points. And, of course, he partnered with McDowell to win one foursomes match and nearly a second one.
Others considered: Laurie Canter found his groove late in the season and was terrific in Miami. He also had two top-11 individual finishes for the Cleeks.
Regular Season Counting Scores
LONDON (+3), 6th place
Rd. 1: Snyman 71, Larrazabal 72
Rd. 2: Larrazabal 69, Kaymer 70
Rd. 3: Kaymer 69, Larrazabal 71, Ritchie 71
PORTLAND (+2), 10th place
Rd. 1: Vincent 71, Kaymer 71
Rd. 2: Kaymer 72, Vincent 74
Rd. 3: Snyman 71, Kaymer 73, Vincent 74
BEDMINSTER (Even), 9th place
Rd. 1: Kaymer 68, McDowell 73
Rd. 2: Kaymer 71, Puig 71
Rd. 3: Canter 70, Kaymer 71, McDowell 73
BOSTON (-16), 11th place
Rd. 1: Kaymer 68, McDowell 68
Rd. 2: Kaymer 67, McDowell 70
Rd. 3: Canter 65, Bland 66, Kaymer 70
CHICAGO (-8), 9th place
Rd. 1: Canter 70, McDowell 71
Rd. 2: Canter 68, Bland 70
Rd. 3: Bland 71, Canter 72, McDowell 74
BANGKOK (-37), 3rd place
Rd. 1: Bland 65, McDowell 68, Canter 70
Rd. 2: Canter 66, Bland 68, Kaymer 69
Rd. 3: Bland 68, Kaymer 68, Canter 69
Prize earnings: $500,000
JEDDAH (-18), 8th place
Rd. 1: Kaymer 69, McDowell 70, Canter 71
Rd. 2: McDowell 65, Kaymer 66, Bland 67
Rd. 3: McDowell 68, Bland 68, Canter 68
QUARTERFINALS: Defeated Torque GC, 2-1
Al Kurdi lost to Niemann, 5 & 3
Canter def. Morgan, 1 up
McDowell/Bland def. Vincent/Otaegui, 2 up
SEMIFINALS: Lost to 4 Aces GC, 2-1
Al Kurdi lost to Johnson, 5 & 3
Canter def. Reed, 2 & 1
McDowell/Bland lost to Perez/Gooch, 1 up
Prize earnings: $3,000,000
By The Numbers
3 – Number of rounds in the 60s by Cleeks players in the first three events of the season
4 – Number of rounds in the 60s by Cleeks players in the first round of the fourth event in Boston
8 – Number of countries represented by Cleeks players (England, Germany, Jordan, South Africa, Spain, Northern Ireland, United States, Zimbabwe)
8 – Top 15 individual point finishes by Cleeks players (Larrazabal 13th, Kaymer 15th in London; Kaymer 12th in Bedminster; Canter 11th in Chicago; Bland 4th, Canter 11th in Bangkok)
65 – Lowest score shot by any Cleeks player during the regular season (Canter Rd. 3 in Boston, Bland Rd. 1 in Bangkok, McDowell Rd. 2 in Jeddah)
69.6 – Laurie Canter's scoring average for his 15 regular season rounds with Cleeks
69.7 – Richard Bland's scoring average for his 12 regular season rounds with Cleeks
70.5 – Martin Kaymer's scoring average for his 20 regular season rounds
70.8 – Scoring average for all Cleeks GC players during the seven regular season events (course average was 71.0)
71.0 – Graeme McDowell's scoring average for his 15 regular season rounds with Cleeks
The Final Word
MARTIN KAYMER ON BEING CAPTAIN
For me, it was a bit strange to be the captain. I'm kind of like a guy, I'd rather be under the radar. I don't want to be in the front line. I'm a good second, I would say. But all of a sudden you're the captain, and I must say it was strange on one hand. On the other hand, I think playing a few more of those events, being the captain in the events will make me grow as a person, as well. I will understand myself a little bit better.