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4ACES, TORQUE SEEKING A RESURGENCE AS SECOND HALF STARTS IN HOUSTON

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
Jun 06 2024
- 6 MIN

HUMBLE, Texas – Halfway through the 2023 LIV Golf season, Dustin Johnson’s 4Aces GC ranked first in points and were on course to earn the league’s top seed for the second consecutive season. Meanwhile, Joaquin Niemann’s Torque GC were the only team with multiple victories and about to pick up two more in fairly short order.

Now it’s halfway through the 2024 season … and things have changed considerably.

And not for the better.

Johnson's team lie a distant 10th in the standings and face a huge task just to secure one of the top three seeds, which comes with a first-round bye for the Team Championship this year.

Niemann's squad are in better shape, fourth in the standings, but they’ve yet to win a team trophy this year, even though Niemann himself is currently the league's top-ranked player, with two individual wins this season.

The script for 2024 has not been what either team expected, but with the second half of the season starting with Friday’s first round of LIV Golf Houston, there’s hope for a reset and a return of more successful form.

“We are just starting,” Niemann said, “and I think we're going to have like a fresh start for us on this half of the season.”

“There's not much pep talk needed,” Johnson said. “We know it's time. We've got to play some good golf the last half of the season and claw our way back up the leaderboard a little bit.”

The status of both clubs reflects the greater competitive depth among the LIV Golf teams this season.

The addition of Jon Rahm’s Legion XIII was felt immediately, as the expansion team won in their debut in Mayakoba, then followed with another victory in Miami.

Cam Smith’s Ripper GC have caught fire and are now the league’s hottest team, entering Houston off back-to-back wins in Adelaide and Singapore. It’s quite a change from a year ago, when Smith's team finished the first half without a podium finish.

The form of Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC, the defending Team Champion, is the one constant. Crushers remain atop the points standings thanks to consecutive wins in Jeddah and Hong Kong.

“Our team isn't necessarily playing the best the past couple weeks, but that's OK. I believe in them 100%,” DeChambeau. “Golf is not a game where you can just be on the top all the time. You're going to have ebbs and flows. I'm not worried about it. I'm excited for the next six events. … I'm proud of the guys for how they've shown themselves this year after winning last year, being able to be atop the leaderboard and push and continue to push and not just say, oh, yeah, we're good enough.”

The format of the Team Championship has changed slightly this year, with only three teams receiving first-round byes instead of four. If the season ended today, the Crushers, Legion and Rippers would own those byes.

But neither Torque nor the Aces are willing to concede anything.

Niemann’s team, in particular, have cobbled together enough consistent finishes to remain close to the leaders. Torque are the only team this season to finish top-six in every tournament.

“I think we're really aiming for that first spot more than the top 6,” said Torque GC's Mito Pereira. “But we're building. I think every week we're trying to give our best and trying to be the best version that we can be.”

Added Niemann: “It's been a big message for me, knowing that it's already half of the season and you are kind of feeling tired a little bit, but then you've got to keep pushing yourself and keep doing what you started doing and keep that motivation up.”

As for the Aces … well, it’s a bit jarring to see them so low in the standings.

Johnson and his original squad - Pat Perez, Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch - dominated the inaugural 2022 season, winning four straight regular-season events, then the Team Championship. The team failed to convert last year’s top seed into another title, but there was no indication that 2024 would see a step back, especially after Johnson recruited Harold Varner III, last year’s winner at LIV Golf DC.

In those first two seasons, the Aces made their mark through their final-round performances. But this year’s all-scores-count-on-Sunday rules change hasn’t served them well. They’ve shot a cumulative score of 14 under in the final round; nine teams have better totals.

“Just as a team, we haven't had low enough scores,” said Pat Perez. “With the caliber of players that's out there and the teams that are playing well, we just haven't matched them for three days.”

The Aces have never lacked for confidence, and they insist a second-half resurgence is on the horizon. It may not be enough to get them a top-three seed, but they’d love to create some momentum going into the Team Championship in Dallas.

“There's no reason why we can't get back to our old form where the Aces were at the top consistently winning golf tournaments,” said Patrick Reed, the Houston-area resident and unofficial host this week. “It just means we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole this first half, but hey, second half we turn that page and get going and start playing when it really matters.”

“I believe something good is going to happen, and I won't stop believing that,” Varner said. “It's a season for a reason.”

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