2022 SEASON IN REVIEW: FIREBALLS GC
Written by MIKE MCALLISTER
This 2022 review of Fireballs GC is part of a series of stories looking back at each of the 12 teams during the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational season.
PREVIOUS: Iron Heads | Hy Flyers | Torque | Niblicks
The second LIV Golf event of the season was the turning point for captain Sergio Garcia and his Fireballs GC. With Mexico's Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz joining the circuit, and Spain's Eugenio Chacarra forgoing his senior season at Oklahoma State to turn pro and play for his childhood idol, the Fireballs not only established their identity as the all-Spanish speaking team, they also now had a lineup that would become one of LIV Golf's most formidable for the rest of the season.
The finish in Portland was the sign of things to come, as Ortiz's long birdie putt on the final hole broke a tie with Torque GC and secured third place alone for the Fireballs. Another podium finish followed in Bedminster, as Ortiz continued to set the pace for the team. Meanwhile, Garcia and Ancer were rounding into form while Chacarra began getting comfortable with his new lifestyle as a pro golfer.
Everything came together in Bangkok. The 22-year-old Chacarra showed why he had been ranked as one of the world's top amateurs, winning the individual competition by three strokes. And in the first event that utilized three counting scores for each round, the Fireballs tapped into their depth for the team win, breaking the 4 Aces GC's stranglehold of four consecutive wins.
A second-place finish in Jeddah wrapped up the regular season, giving the Fireballs plenty of momentum going into the Team Championship. They ran out of steam in Miami, losing in the semifinals, but the Fireballs should be one of the premier teams in 2023.
For the inaugural event in London, Sergio Garcia drafted Jediah Morgan, James Piot and then-amateur David Puig. The lineup was overhauled for Portland with the additions of Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz and Eugenio Chacarra. From there, the Garcia-Ancer-Ortiz-Chacarra roster stayed intact for the final seven events of the season.
Fireballs GC starts
TEAM: After winning four consecutive events in the United States, could anybody knock off the 4 Aces? The answer turned out to be the Fireballs in Bangkok. Chacarra led the way with an individual win at 19 under, and the Fireballs collectively were 47 under as a team (45 under for their counting scores). Ancer shot three rounds in the 60s, Garcia provided two 68s, and Ortiz was huge with a second-round 65.
INDIVIDUAL: Making just his fifth pro start and being the youngest player in the field at age 22, Eugenio Chacarra wasn't exactly the betting favorite going into Bangkok. But after some early struggles in his first few starts, the young Spaniard decided to return to his college mindset of just playing smart and having fun. The adjustment paid quick dividends. He opened with a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead, backed it up with a 63 to take control, and then closed it out with a 69 that included an impressive chip shot late in the round after a 97-minute weather delay. Afterwards, he called it "a week I'll never forget."
SERGIO GARCIA. Although the Fireballs captain didn't make the individual podium this season, he was among LIV Golf's most consistent performers. He produced points in six of the seven regular season events; only Dustin Johnson (7 for 7), Talor Gooch and Lee Westwood (6 of 7 each) could say that. Garcia's 62 points were the most on his team. Despite a left knee injury, he shared third-place money with Joaquin Niemann in Jeddah (but was fourth in points via tiebreaker). Then at the Team Championship in Miami, he and his one good leg beat imposing Punch captain Cameron Smith in singles, one of the most impressive performances of the weekend.
Others considered: Eugenio Chacarra, of course, for his victory in Bangkok. The second-round 63 was among the lowest scores of the season ... Carlos Ortiz began his LIV Golf career with a solo second in Portland and a solo fourth in Bedminster. He finished second on the team with 52 points and first in scoring average at 69.0
Regular Season Counting Scores
LONDON (+13), 11th place
Rd. 1: Garcia 71, Piot 71
Rd. 2: Garcia 70, Morgan 70
Rd. 3: Piot 73, Puig 73, Garcia 75
PORTLAND (-12), 3rd place
Rd. 1: Orti 67, Ancer 73
Rd. 2: Ortiz 69, Garcia 71
Rd. 3: Ortiz 69, Ancer 71, Chacarra 72
Prize earnings: $500,000
BEDMINSTER (-12), 3rd place
Rd. 1: Ortiz 67, Garcia 70
Rd. 2: Garcia 70, Ortiz 70
Rd. 3: Ortiz 68, Garcia 69, Chacarra 71
Prize earnings: $500,000
BOSTON (-23), 6th place
Rd. 1: Chacarra 68, Ancer 69
Rd. 2: Garcia 64, Ancer 65
Rd. 3: Ancer 65, Garcia 66, Ortiz 70
CHICAGO (-14), 8th place
Rd. 1: Ortiz 70, Chacarra 71
Rd. 2: Garcia 69, Ancer 71
Rd. 3: Garcia 67, Ancer 71, Chacarra 71
BANGKOK (-45), 1st place
Rd. 1: Chacarra 65, Garcia 68, Ancer 69
Rd. 2: Chacarra 63, Ortiz 65, Ancer 68
Rd. 3: Garcia 68, Ancer 68, Chacarra 69
Prize earnings: $3,000,000
JEDDAH (-27), 2nd place
Rd. 1: Ortiz 66, Garcia 67, Ancer 67
Rd. 2: Garcia 64, Ancer 65, Chacarra 67
Rd. 3: Garcia 68, Ortiz 69, Ancer 70
Prize earnings: $1,500,000
SEMIFINALS: Lost to Punch GC, 2-1
Garcia def. Smith, 2 & 1
Ortiz lost to Leishman, 1 up
Chacarra/Ancer lost to Jones/Ormsby, 1 up
Prize earnings: $3,000,000
By The Numbers
4 – Times that Ancer finished inside the top three in the field in Fairways Hit in his six regular season starts (T2 in Portland, 3rd in Bedminster, T1 in Bangkok, 2nd in Jeddah)
9 – Top 10 individual point finishes by Fireballs players (Ortiz 2nd in Portland; Ortiz 4th, Garcia 7th in Bedminster; Ancer 8th, Garcia 9th in Boston; Garcia 4th in Chicago; Chacarra 1st, Ancer 10th in Bangkok; Garcia 4th in Jeddah)
19 – Birdies by Chacarra in Bangkok, tying for the third most by any player in a single LIV event this season
63 – Lowest score shot by any Fireballs player during the regular season (Chacarra, Rd. 2 in Bangkok)
69.0 – Carlos Ortiz's scoring average for his 18 regular season rounds
69.5 – Sergio Garcia's scoring average for his 21 regular season rounds
69.8 – Abraham Ancer's scoring average for his 18 regular season rounds
69.98 – Scoring average for all Fireballs GC players during the seven regular season events (course average was 71.0)
70.1 – Eugenio Chacarra's scoring average for his 18 regular season rounds
196 – Cumulative team total for Fireballs in Rd. 2s in Bangkok and Jeddah. It was two of the seven times this season that a team produced a sub-200 score with three counting rounds
299.0 – Garcia's driving distance average when he led the field in London
The Final Word
SERGIO GARCIA ON HIS TEAMMATES
I'm super proud. I couldn't be prouder of them. Obviously I wanted to have the best quality players I could have, but at the same time I wanted to have good quality guys that we could get along, that we would have a good camaraderie between all of us. I think obviously we're all friends, and that definitely helps and it shows. ... It's great fun. I've loved every minute of it. It's great to be a part of this team with these guys that, like I said, they're great players, but more than anything they're even better people. That's the most important thing.