BANGKOK ROUND 3 RECAP: CHACARRA, 22, WINS IN FIFTH LIV START; FIREBALLS CLAIM FIRST TEAM TITLE
Written by LIV GOLF STAFF
BANGKOK, Thailand – After winning the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok on Sunday in just his fifth start since turning pro, 22-year-old Eugenio Chacarra had plenty of people to help him celebrate.
His Fireballs GC teammates, of course, as the Spanish-speaking foursome captained by Sergio Garcia claimed their first team win of the season. Also his coach, who has taught Chacarra since he was 5 years old and just recently joined him on the road. His caddie. His best friend. His cousin. And his mother, who was a nervous wreck early but couldn’t stop smiling as her son became LIV Golf’s youngest champion.
“My mom has been getting me to the course since I was little and tried to help me reach my dreams,” said Chacarra, who pocketed $4 million for the individual win and another $750,000 for his share of the team victory at Stonehill. “This was one of the things I wanted to do, win with my mom.”
It was quite a performance she saw from her son this week at Stonehill. Chacarra’s 54-hole total of 19 under is the lowest winning score in LIV Golf’s inaugural season, and his 3-stroke victory over Patrick Reed ties for the widest winning margin established in the previous event by Cameron Smith in Chicago.
“He played great,” Reed said. “To go around this place in 19 under is impressive.”
“He fully deserved it,” added Richard Bland, one of his playing partners the last two days in the final group. “I don’t think anyone was catching him today. He had it under control the whole back 9. He’s got a bright future.”
The Fireballs’ victory ends the four-tournament winning streak by 4 Aces GC and gives Garcia’s team a chance to claim one of the day one byes at the Miami Team Championship to close out the season. The seeds will be finalized after next week’s event in Jeddah, with the top four teams getting byes.
In shooting a collective 45 under for the week, the Fireballs produced all nine counting scores in the 60s, winning by 7 shots over Crushers GC. Cleeks GC made the podium and the final money position for the first time this season, finishing third by one shot over Iron Heads GC.
“It’s an amazing week,” Garcia said. “… 4 Aces were coming off four wins in a row, so we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. But we had a lot of faith in each other We’ve been playing really, really well, and been quite close a couple of times.
“We felt like we just needed to click a little bit here and there, and that was going to make the difference – and that’s what happened this week.”
For Chacarra, who joined LIV Golf for the second event in Portland after opting to skip his senior season at Oklahoma State, the final round at Stonehill was a testament to his maturity as well as his skill.
He entered Sunday with a 5-shot lead but quickly saw it reduced to a single stroke after suffering his first two bogeys of the week at hole Nos. 4 and 5. But he bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 sixth.
“That birdie on 6 was big,” he said, “but I knew it was going to be hard today. It was going to be a long day.”
From there, he played bogey-free golf the rest of the way. But he had to endure one other big test.
After making a birdie at the 14th hole to move to 18 under, then hitting an approach shot that finished off the green at 15, Chacarra and the rest of the field were soon forced off the course due to severe weather. The 1 hour, 37-minute delay forced him to sit on a 2-shot lead over Reed.
But he remained calm and composed. Once play resumed, Chacarra produced a terrific chip to give himself a tap-in par at 15. Meanwhile, Reed found the water with his tee shot at 16. He would eventually drop a shot, giving Chacarra a 3-stroke lead with three holes to play.
“I feel like the rain and the cold out on 15 helped me a lot,” Chacarra said. “I needed some time off. I was kind of nervous, and being with my family, my coach, and my best friend Gonzalo kind of helped me relax and just see how life is and how nice is my life right now.”
As for the chip shot at 15, Chacarra called it “the best chip I ever had in my life.”
Sunday was the best moment he’s had in his golfing career. Not just his first professional win, but celebrating with Garcia, his hero and someone he describes as a “second father.” Certainly, Garcia was as proud as any parent about his young protégé’s performance.
Asked about the opportunities LIV Golf provides young players with the freedom to grow without worries of missing cuts or uncertain schedules, Garcia replied: “To be able to come out here with good talent and for them to be able to play a little bit more freely and show what they can really do without having to be super intense on if I don't make the cut this week, what am I going to do and am I going to be able to play the next three weeks or something like that, I think it's huge.
“LIV Golf has given us that chance, and super proud that we have one of them in our team and already a winner. It's amazing.”
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. Starting with LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok, the best three scores in Round 1, the best three scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 will combine to produce the team score. The previous counting-score format was 2-2-3.
The total team prize money for each event is $5 million, with the winning team dividing $3 million, second place dividing $1.5 million and third place dividing $500,000 among its four team members.
In addition, teams are vying for seeds going into the Team Championship in Miami, the final event of the inaugural season with a $50 million purse. Teams have received points for their finishes in each event, and the top four teams in the points standings after next week’s event in Jeddah receive day one byes in Miami.
Here is the leaderboard and Sunday’s counting scores in the final round at Stonehill:
1. Fireballs GC, 45 under (Sergio Garcia 68, Abraham Ancer 68, Eugenio Chacarra 69)
2. Crushers GC, 38 under (Paul Casey 65, Charles Howell III 67, Bryson DeChambeau 69)
3. Cleeks GC, 37 under (Martin Kaymer 68, Richard Bland 68, Laurie Canter 69)
4. Iron Heads GC, 36 under (Sihwan Kim 68, Phachara Khongwatmai 68, Sadom Kaewkanjana 68)
5. Niblicks GC, 36 under (James Piot 68, Harold Varner III 69, Turk Pettit 70)
6. 4 Aces GC, 35 under (Patrick Reed 67, Dustin Johnson 67, Pat Perez 69)
7. Majesticks GC, 32 under (Sam Horsfield 67, Henrik Stenson 68, Ian Poulter 69)
8. Smash GC, 32 under (Chase Koepka 67, Brooks Koepka 69, Jason Kokrak 70)
9. Punch GC, 28 under (Matt Jones 66, Cameron Smith 70, Marc Leishman 70)
10. Hy Flyers GC, 24 under (Bernd Wiesberger 68, Phil Mickelson 69, Cameron Tringale 72)
11. Stinger GC, 20 under (Charl Schwartzel 66, Shaun Norris 69, Louis Oosthuizen 73)
12. Torque GC, 18 under (Joaquin Niemann 65, Jediah Morgan 72, Scott Vincent 74)
Eugenio Chacarra (on winning his first pro event):
Feels great. I mean, I don't think there's a lot of secret. Just trusting yourself and working hard every day. That's what they teach me when I was young and what these guys tell me you need to do, and trusting your team, having a good team, and just work and work I would say.
Sergio Garcia (on playing in Thailand):
Obviously LIV has given us the possibility of coming here to Thailand and Asia and trying to develop the game even more. … This is a global tour. It's not a tour that is in the U.S., not a tour that is in Europe. This is a global tour. I think I speak for everyone; it's great for us. We feel very proud and very thankful to LIV to put their belief on us to try to bring the game of golf everywhere in the world and make it grow, and to see all those kids out there supporting us and enjoying it, it's what we always try to do.
Abraham Ancer (on Fireballs GC win):
We felt like we had a team that we all played really solid, so having three scores count out of the four was great. I think we even could have done four out of four, and we would have been maybe here in the same spot. That really says a lot about this team, and I think we couldn't be happier.
Bryson DeChambeau (on Crushers GC finishing second):
We’re pretty consistent. That’s why I chose who I did. That’s what we want to be. We want to be up there all the time, give ourselves chances. … I didn’t play well this week at all. Pretty disappointed with myself but that’s golf. I had just come off the Long Drive [Championship]. To come off of that and finish top 15 isn’t bad. But with a golf course like this, I should’ve shot 25 under.
Dustin Johnson (on the end of 4 Aces GC winning streak):
Just a lot of things happened. I didn’t play as well as I should have. But look, we have a really good team and we’re in a really good position going into Miami, which is the only thing that matters.
Patrick Reed (on the 4 Aces):
This week obviously wasn’t great overall team-wise, but I feel like the guys are all hungry to get back on the podium. We look forward to going out there and making a statement next week [in Jeddah].
Driving accuracy – Richard Bland, Marc Leishman, 100% (14 of 14 fairways)
Driving distance – Bryson DeChambeau, 349.0-yard average
Greens in regulation – Paul Casey, 100% (18 of 18 greens)
Fewest putts – Phachara Khongwatmai, 24
Most birdies – Joaquin Niemann, Phachara Khongwatmai, 8
Bogey-free final round – Paul Casey, Richard Bland, James Piot, Carlos Ortiz, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson
Bogey-free through 54 holes – James Piot
Easiest hole – 637-yard par-5 2nd, which played to a stroke average of 4.489.
Hardest hole – 484-yard par-4 8th, which played to a stroke average of 4.234.
Course stroke average: Rd. 1 (69.625). Rd. 2 (68.638). Rd. 3 (69.277). Total (69.183). Par is 72.