2022 SEASON IN REVIEW: PUNCH GC
Written by MIKE MCALLISTER
This 2022 review of Punch GC is part of a series of stories looking back at each of the 12 teams during the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational season.
PREVIOUS: Smash | Stinger | Crushers | Cleeks | Majesticks | Fireballs | Iron Heads | Hy Flyers | Torque | Niblicks
Aug. 30, 2022 was a very good day for Punch GC. That's the day Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman officially joined the all-Australian team for the LIV Golf Invitational Boston. Adding Leishman alone would've been terrific; after all, he's won 13 times in his professional career. Smith, however, took everything to a new level. That's what happens when the reigning Open Champion and then-No. 2 world player is added to the lineup.
Punch GC, which to that point struggled just to get top-8 team points, now became a foursome to fear. New captain Smith announced his arrival with a 64 in his first round, finishing one shot out of the playoff. His win in the next event in Chicago fueled Punch's first money finish (a tie for third with Hy Flyers).
Surprisingly, the Aussies could not build on the momentum, failing to get points in the last two regular season events. But they returned to form at the Team Championship, winning their quarterfinal and semifinal matches to play for the title. On the final stroke-play day, Smith was magnificent, nearly leading his team to the champagne celebration. Alas, Punch came up one stroke short (leading to beers behind the stage). Still, notice had been served. Smith and his Aussies should have plenty of confidence entering 2023. Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!
Punch GC's first captain, Wade Ormsby, drafted Matt Jones, Ryosuke Kinoshita and Blake Windred at the inaugural event in London. Jediah Morgan replaced Kinoshita in Portland to create the first all-Aussie roster. Travis Smyth replaced Windred in Bedminster. New LIV Golf members Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman joined the team for Boston, with Smith replacing Ormsby as captain. From there, the Smith-Leishman-Jones-Ormsby lineup remained intact the remainder of the season.
Smash GC starts
TEAM: Surprisingly, the best day of the season for Punch wasn't one of Smith's better days. In the semifinals of the Team Championship, Smith was beaten by Fireballs GC captain Sergio Garcia in singles, but Punch still advanced thanks to tense 1-up wins by Leishman (over Carlos Ortiz in singles) and Ormsby/Jones (over Eugenio Chacarra and Abraham Ancer in foursomes).
INDIVIDUAL: Smith made up for the loss to Garcia the following day by shooting a 7-under 65 that was three strokes better than any other player at Trump National Doral. Smith birdied five of his last eight holes to put pressure on Dustin Johnson and his 4 Aces. For a player who had so many special moments across the world in 2022, Smith considered his final round in the 2022 LIV Golf season one of the best of his career. "I feel like I really didn't miss a shot today," he said. "I felt like I holed everything."
CAMERON SMITH. One of the world's best golfers was everything Punch could've hoped for in 2022. Smith's first LIV round was a 64, and he finished his first start with a 63. He won the individual title at the next event in Chicago to set up Punch for a money finish (and then ended the final day by giving LIV Golf Commissioner and fellow Aussie Greg Norman a mullet cut for charity). In Miami, Smith beat Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson in singles in the quarterfinals at the Team Championship, and finished with that muscle-flexing 65 on the final day.
Others considered: Matt Jones was the most consistent performer for Punch all season. His score counted for 19 of the 21 regular season rounds.
Regular Season Counting Scores
LONDON (+7), 7th place
Rd. 1: Ormsby 71, Jones 73
Rd. 2: Kinoshita 67, Jones 70
Rd. 3: Windred 71, Kinoshita 72, Ormsby 73
PORTLAND (+7), 12th place
Rd. 1: Ormsby 70, Jones 72
Rd. 2: Jones 72, Windred 74
Rd. 3: Jones 72, Windred 74, Ormsby 77
BEDMINSTER (+7), 11th place
Rd. 1: Smyth 69, Jones 72
Rd. 2: Smyth 73, Jones 73
Rd. 3: Jones 69, Smyth 73, Ormsby 75
BOSTON (-23), 7th place
Rd. 1: Smith 64, Jones 69
Rd. 2: Leishman 64, Jones 67
Rd. 3: Smith 63, Jones 70, Leishman 70
CHICAGO (-17), 4th place (T3 money)
Rd. 1: Smith 66, Jones 68
Rd. 2: Smith 68, Jones 72
Rd. 3: Smith 69, Jones 72, Ormsby 72
Prize earnings: $250,000
BANGKOK (-28), 9th place
Rd. 1: Leishman 66, Ormsby 70, Jones 71
Rd. 2: Ormsby 68, Leishman 69, Jones 70
Rd. 3: Jones 66, Leishman 70, Smith 70
JEDDAH (-12), 10th place
Rd. 1: Leishman 67, Smith 68, Ormsby 70
Rd. 2: Ormsby 68, Smith 69, Jones 69
Rd. 3: Smith 68, Leishman 69, Jones 70
QUARTERFINALS: Beat Hy Flyers GC, 2-1
Smith def. Mickelson, 1 up
Leishman def. Wolff, 4 & 2
Jones/Ormsby lost to Wiesberger/Tringale, 3 & 2
SEMIFINALS: Beat Fireballs GC, 2-1
Smith lost to Garcia, 2 & 1
Leishman def. Ortiz, 1 up
Jones/Ormsby def. Chacarra/Ancer, 1 up
FINALS: 2nd place (-6)
Prize earnings $8,000,000
By The Numbers
1.51 – Smith's putting average, ranking him No. 1 among all LIV golfers for the season
2 – Top 10 individual point finishes by Punch players (Smith 5th in Boston; Smith 1st in Chicago)
4 – Top 20 individual point finishes by Jones, highest total for any Punch golfer
6 – Eagles recorded by Smith in 216 regular season holes played, tying him with Brooks Koepka (324 holes played) for most among all LIV golfers
68.0 – Cameron Smith's scoring average for his 12 regular season rounds
70.2 – Marc Leishman's scoring average for his 12 regular season rounds
70.7 – Matt Jones' scoring average for his 21 regular season rounds
71.4 – Scoring average for all Punch GC players during the seven regular season events (course average was 71.0)
72.1 – Wade Ormsby's scoring average for his 21 regular season rounds
72.16 – Percentage of fairways hit by Ormsby, the fourth highest total among all LIV golfers the season
73.97 – Smith's scrambling average, ranking him No. 1 among all LIV golfers for the season
The Final Word
CAMERON SMITH ON THE TEAM COMPETITION
I spend more time looking at the team leaderboard than I do the actual individual leaderboard. So I don't know, it's quite unique, but that's what I love about LIV Golf. It's just so different, and you're worried about your mates sometimes more than you are yourself.