BEDMINSTER ROUND 3 RECAP: STENSON WINS IN LIV GOLF DEBUT; 4 ACES GC CLAIMS SECOND STRAIGHT TEAM TITLE
Written by LIV GOLF STAFF
Henrik Stenson admits the last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster ride of emotions. But as he stood on top of the podium Sunday, holding aloft the winner’s trophy after a spectacular LIV Golf debut at Bedminster, there’s no doubt the 2016 Open Champion from Sweden was enjoying the moment.
This ride had ended a high note – specifically his 22nd career worldwide victory, at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in the third LIV Golf event of the season. Stenson’s 2-under 69 left him at 11 under, two shots clear of Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson. His reward was the trophy, the first-place check of $4 million, and a confirmation that he remains one of the world’s top players.
“I’m super-proud of the focus I managed to have this week,” said the 46-year-old Stenson. “I’ve been working really hard to get my game back in shape, and it’s certainly going in the right direction as we know now.”
Also going in the right direction are 4 Aces GC. The foursome, captained by Johnson and including Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Pat Perez, won the team title for the second consecutive LIV event. In Portland, they won by seven strokes but rarely seemed threatened. In Bedminster, they won by eight strokes but the issue was in doubt midway in the round.
At one point, Stenson and his Majesticks GC – captained by Lee Westwood – briefly held the team lead. At other times, the two teams were tied. But 4 Aces GC pulled away in the final few holes to take the $3 million first-place prize at 25 under. Majesticks GC finished at 17 under, while the all-Spanish speaking Fireballs GC finished at 12 under and in third place for the second consecutive event.
“Through 10 or 11 holes, I think we were tied, so it was a lot different,” said Johnson, who was in the final group with Stenson and Reed. “Obviously, I was playing with Pat and we’re all watching the leaderboard and especially watching the team score.
“Today, we knew we needed to play some good golf to finish if we wanted to win this tournament as a team, and also we were both right in the mix trying to chase down Henrik.”
Chasing Stenson, however, proved to be too difficult. He started the day with a three-shot lead over Johnson, and by the first hole, the lead was five, thanks to a Stenson birdie and a Johnson bogey after an errant drive forced the 4 Aces captain to chip back onto the fairway.
Neither Johnson nor Reed could get the putter going, and Stenson never opened the door. His only bogey of the day came at the par-5 15th, and he still walked off with a two-stroke lead.
Credit his 3-wood, a club that he’s leaned on plenty of times during his career and certainly at Bedminster this week in order to avoid the rough and other trouble areas. After one particularly shot in round two, he even kissed the club in a show of appreciation.
“It's been an important club most of my career I'd say, and yeah, I certainly hit some good ones this week,” Stenson said. “I think the golf course obviously set up nicely for me. It's a lot of positional play off the tee, and we surely found a big number of fairways this week.
“First day in particular I played really, really solid. Yesterday was a little bit more of a grind, and then today we played pretty good for the most round. It was a little bit wobbly coming home, but we'll take it in the end, and yeah, the 3-wood didn't do me any harm.”
TEAM LEADERBOARD: 4 ACES GC WINS AGAIN
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. The best two scores in Round 1, the best two scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 combine to produce the team score.
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.
Here is the final leaderboard and Sunday’s three counting scores in the final round at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster:
1. 4 Aces GC (-25)
Dustin Johnson 68
2. Majesticks GC (-17)
Henrik Stenson 69
3. Fireballs GC (-12)
Carlos Ortiz 68
4. Hy Flyers GC (-9)
Matthew Wolff 64
5. Stinger GC (-8)
Branden Grace 68
6. Crushers GC (-4)
Paul Casey 66
7. Niblicks GC (-4)
Hudson Swafford 70
8. Smash GC (-2)
Brooks Koepka 66
9. Cleeks GC (E)
Laurie Canter 70
10. Iron Heads GC (+3)
Sadom Kaewkanjana 73
11. Punch GC (+7)
Matt Jones 69
12. Torque GC (+10)
Hideto Tanihara 71
WOLFF’S SWING THOUGHT FUELS PODIUM FINISH
Matthew Wolff started the day seven strokes off the pace but was the only player who mounted a significant charge in the final round. His bogey-free 7-under 64 left him at 9 under, two strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson. Thanks to the tiebreaker rule, Wolff was awarded second place on the podium ahead of Dustin Johnson.
Wolff, who made his LIV Golf debut in Portland and plays for Hy Flyers GC, credited a recent swing thought as a difference-maker. He said it involved leaving his hands at the top a little longer so that he doesn’t get too quick and hit it left.
“Kind of got a swing thought earlier this week that I was feeling really good with, so just kind of stuck with it,” Wolff said. “Feel like I hit it good all week, even the first two days. Just putts didn’t drop, and I got a couple of bad breaks. Today, it came together.”
Thanks to Wolff’s play, Hy Flyers GC – captained by Phil Mickelson – was able to make a push in the team standings. They fell three strokes short of finishing in the money, with Fireballs GC at 12 under to Hy Flyers at 9 under.
“Definitely thought if I could get a couple more, I could put some pressure on (Stenson),” Wolff said.
WESTWOOD’S BALL-STRIKING ‘A JOY TO WATCH’
Majesticks GC Captain Lee Westwood was terrific from tee-to-green at Bedminster, as he led the field in fairways hit (88%) and greens in regulation (78%).
So impressive was his play that one of his playing partners, Cleeks GC Captain Martin Kaymer – who had been in the same group as Westwood for two of the three rounds – turned to the veteran Englishman on Sunday and said, “That was a joy to watch.”
Said Westwood: “That was nice of him to say. So yeah, I’m playing well. Look forward to the rest of the year.”
Westwood finished at 4 under and a tie for sixth. While pleased with his ball-striking, he knows one part of his game prevented him from getting in the mix Sunday.
“Could not buy a putt,” Westwood said.
ORTIZ LEADS FIREBALLS GC AGAIN
Carlos Ortiz made his LIV Golf debut in Portland and finished second. At Bedminster, he finished solo fourth. And in both events, his Fireballs GC team captained by Sergio Garcia finished third.
Suffice to say it’s been a productive couple of starts for the native of Mexico, who provided the dramatic clinching putt for Fireballs GC on the final hole in Portland.
“I’ve never had this much fun in a golf tournament,” Ortiz said after his 3-under 68 on Sunday. “It’s unbelievable.”
Too far behind Henrik Stenson to push for the individual trophy, Ortiz knew he needed to stay sharp since Fireballs GC were trying to hold off a late charge from Hy Flyers GC, who was benefitting from Matthew Wolff’s 64. In the end, Fireballs claimed third place by three strokes.
“I had no chance with the way Henrik was playing but I knew it was close for third place,” Ortiz said. “That really pushed me.”
I think there might have been a little bit of extra motivation in there this week. When we as players have that, I think we can bring out the good stuff. Yeah, I certainly did that this week. I guess that's been a bit of a theme over the course of my career, I think, when I really want something I manage to dig a little bit deeper, and a lot of times we manage to make it happen.
Lee Westwood (on Henrik Stenson)
Not a bad way to start your LIV Golf career, is it? Think he’s been playing quite well recently but not getting the results. It was a good time for him to play well again.
Sam Horsfield (Majesticks GC)
Every time I saw a leaderboard, I was trying to see how the boys were doing. … Henrik’s obviously playing really well.
PERFORMANCE STATS RD. 3
Driving distance – Paul Casey, 338.8 yards avg.
Longest drive – Paul Casey, 360 yards.
Driving accuracy – Louis Oosthuizen, 93% (13 of 14 fairways)
Greens in regulation – Lee Westwood, 94% (17 of 18 greens)
Scrambling – Matthew Wolff, 100% (4 of 4)
Fewest putts – Sergio Garcia, 23 putts
Putts in GIR – Matt Jones, 1.42
Eagles made – Matthew Wolff (10th hole), Brooks Koepka (10th), Justin Harding (15th hole)
Bogey-free round – Matthew Wolff (64)
Easiest hole – 590-yard par-5 8th, which played to a stroke average of 4.500.
Hardest hole – 185-yard par-3 7th, which played to a stroke average of 3.354.
Course stroke average – Rd. 1 (70.750). Rd. 2 (72.979). Rd. 3 (71.438). Overall (71.722). Par is 71.