BEDMINSTER, N.J. – After winning its LIV Golf League-leading fourth team trophy of the season on Sunday in record-scoring fashion, Torque GC had a bit of fun – and maybe an undercurrent of frustration – in discussing the season-long standings.
Torque is still in second place. Still behind 4Aces GC, which has produced half the success (two wins) this season.
“It's a running joke on this team how the Aces keep going in front even though we keep winning,” said Sebastian Munoz, who at 30 years old is Torque’s elder spokesman. “Mito says the score is biased.”
That would be teammate Mito Pereira, who added, “I can’t believe we’re still second. Something is wrong here.”
Actually, it’s not so much about right or wrong but consistency.
With points weighted heavily toward higher tournament finishes, the defending champion 4Aces have been atop the standings since grabbing the lead after the second tournament of the season. Dustin Johnson’s team didn’t win either of the first two events, but with consecutive runner-up results, they acquired enough points to overtake the first two team winners (Crushers GC in Mayakoba, Fireballs GC in Tucson).
Even after Torque won for the first time in Orlando in the third event, the Aces were still No. 1, thanks to a third-place finish. Finally, the Aces claimed the team trophy in Adelaide – their fourth consecutive podium result.
Through the first six events of 2023, the Aces led with 120 points while Torque was in sixth place at 65 points. In the five subsequent tournaments, the Aces claimed 48 points (with one win) while Torque added 96 points (thanks to their three wins, worth 32 points each).
That’s left the Aces in first going into this week’s LIV Golf Bedminster with 168 points, with Torque in second at 161 points.
“We’re still second,” Captain Joaquin Niemann sighed.
“I guess they’re really solid and getting points every week,” added Pereira, almost grudgingly.
Stinger GC's Charl Schwartzel, whose team sits third in the standings, said the points structure may need to be evaluated. "There needs to be more reward for winning," he said. "If you're winning four times, I think you should be leading."
Although the win differential favors Torque, there are a couple of other data points that favor the 4Aces and helps explain why they remain No. 1:
Podium results: 4Aces have 6, Torque has 5
Average finish position: 4Aces are at 4.2, Torque is at 4.3
Essentially, while Torque has more top-8 points finishes this season (9 to 8), the 4Aces have more quality finishes.
But those are just numbers. What’s the perception among their LIV Golf competitors who are chasing the two teams? Who’s the team to beat right now – 4Aces or Torque?
“It's a tough choice between them, but they both played really, really well and really solid this year,” said Majesticks Co-captain Henrik Stenson. “It will be interesting to see if any of the other teams can bring them down in Miami.”
“Obviously you're trying to bait me a little with this question,” smiled HyFlyers GC’s Cameron Tringale.
Said Stinger Captain Louis Oosthuizen: "The 4Aces have a lot more seconds and thirds, but right now, Torque is by far the team that, at the moment, looks like they're going to finish at the top with the way they're playing."
Added Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia: “I wouldn't go just with those two. Obviously yeah, those are the usual suspects that you may say, but I think Crushers, obviously Bryson [DeChambeau] is playing very well, and Anirban [Lahiri] is very solid. Paul [Casey], if he's fit, he's a great player. Obviously Charl [Charles Howell III] is a really solid player, too.
“I think there's several teams that have improved a lot this year. RangeGoats are much better than they were last year. You have to be aware of several of them, but at the end of the day, I think, like I said, I have a lot of belief and confidence in my team, and I think that if we're firing on all cylinders, we can beat anyone.”
Certainly, DeChambeau’s 61-58 weekend at Greenbrier to win the individual title has the rest of the league on notice. A hot hand posting super-low scores alleviates some of the pressure for his teammates. The RangeGoats, for instance, have relied heavily on Talor Gooch’s league-leading three individual wins this season, as well as Harold Varner’s win.
Lahiri said his Crushers captain is playing with the momentum of “a freight train.”
“We're just going to ideally just ride his coattails,” Lahiri said. “But that's what team golf is about. You need one guy to go super-hot or two guys to play really well, and then you want the other two guys to have those performances that pick the team up.”
But at the top of the standings, team depth matters the most.
The 4Aces have just one individual win in 2023 (captain Dustin Johnson in Tulsa) but have combined for 16 top-10 points finishes. Every player has contributed at least three top 10s: DJ 5, Patrick Reed 4, Peter Uihlein 4, Pat Perez 3. Of the team’s 40 individual starts this season, 27 have resulted in points. And they’re the only team with all four players inside the top half of the individual season standings.
Torque is nearly as impressive. No individual wins this season, but 13 top 10s: Pereira 5, Munoz 4, Niemann 2, David Puig 2. Of their 40 cumulative starts, 25 have produced points.
The intriguing development is the rise of Puig, who at 21 years old is LIV Golf’s youngest player. Both of his top 10s have come in his last three starts, including his LIV-career best fourth at Greenbrier. He has emerged as one of the most valuable No. 4 players in any lineup.
“Probably the key thing for that team is how much David has improved, and that shows a lot,” Garcia said. “Obviously he's gotten a lot more comfortable out here. At the beginning was probably a little bit nervy and stuff, but now you can see that he's playing much better. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and that's helping the team a lot.”
With three tournaments left in the regular season, 4Aces and Torque are virtually assured of first-round byes at the Team Championship. They can still jockey for position, which is important since the higher-seeded teams get to “draft” their opponent in the semifinal match-play round.
For now, the emphasis will be on acquiring more trophies.
The Aces, coming off their worst-ever result as a team – last place in Greenbrier – hope that Bedminster will offer better vibes. They won the team title here last year during a stretch of four consecutive victories.
Meanwhile, Munoz said at the start of the season that he expected Torque to win three times. They’ve already surpassed that total. He’s now having to readjust his projections.
“We're trending. We're playing good,” Munoz said. “Our rookie, David, is playing great. He's fighting for tournaments.
“I feel like we could make a couple more.”
If so, Torque may finally overtake the Aces and rise to No. 1 in the standings. The Spanish-speaking quartet is tired of the joke. Time now for serious business.