FIELD NOTES FOR THE 48 PLAYERS AT LIV GOLF INVITATIONAL BANGKOK
Written by LIV GOLF STAFF
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – Player who has posted top 10 finishes in all five LIV Golf events (Johnson)
4 – Former world No. 1s (Johnson, Kaymer, B. Koepka, Westwood)
5 – NCAA Division I individual champions (DeChambeau, Howell III, Mickelson, Pettit, Wolff)
7 – Players currently ranked No. 1 among their countrymen
12 – Players with 500 or more professional starts (Bland, Casey, Garcia, Howell, Mickelson, Na, Perez, Poulter, Schwartzel, Stenson, Tanihara, Westwood)
12 – Major champions (DeChambeau, Garcia, Johnson, Kaymer, B. Koepka, McDowell, Mickelson, Oosthuizen, Reed, Schwartzel, Smith, Stenson)
13 – Players who have participated in the Olympics
15 – Countries represented (USA 19, England 6, Australia 5, South Africa 4, Spain 2, Mexico 2, Thailand 2, Austria 1, Chile 1, Germany 1, India 1, Japan 1, Northern Ireland 1, Sweden 1, Zimbabwe 1)
21 – Players with 10 or more professional wins (Casey 21, DeChambeau 10, Garcia 36, Grace 15, Johnson 29, Kaymer 23, Khongwatmai 10, B. Koepka 15, Kokrak 11, Lahiri 18, Leishman 13, McDowell 16, Mickelson 57, Norris 10, Oosthuizen 14, Poulter 17, Schwartzel 16, Stenson 22, Tanihara 17, Westwood 44, Wiesberger 12)
22 – Combined majors won (7 Masters, 6 U.S. Opens, 5 PGA Championships, 4 Open Championships)
28 – Players who have started each of the first five events in the LIV Golf Invitational Series
520 – Cumulative professional wins for the 48-man field
Players in their 20s: 12
Players in their 30s: 22
Players in their 40s: 13
Players in their 50s: 1
Youngest player: Eugenio Chacarra, 22 (born March 22, 2000)
Oldest player: Phil Mickelson, 52 (born June 16, 1970)
YOUNG THAI STARS EAGER FOR BIG EVENT
Young Thai stars Phachara Khongwatmai and Sadom Kaewkanjana will undoubtedly have large galleries in Bangkok as they compete against many of golf’s biggest stars at the all-new Stonehill.
The 23-year-old Khongwatmai, from Songkhla, ranks third in the International Series Order of Merit, providing him entry into LIV Golf events. The International Series is the Asian Tour’s ground-breaking new series of marquee events made possible through a 10-year, $300 million commitment by LIV Golf.
In 2013, Khongwatmai became the youngest winner of a professional tournament when he won the Singha Hua Hin Open on the All Thailand Golf Tour at the age of 14. At age 15, he became the youngest winner on the Asian Development Tour. He now has 10 career wins – seven on the All Thailand Golf Tour – and has played in all five LIV Golf events, with a best finish of 15th in Bedminster.
“To be playing in an event of this scale at home in Thailand is something I could only have dreamed of growing up,” Khongwatmai said. “The quality of the field is unlike any golf event that will ever have competed here, which makes this a huge moment for not only golf but sport in Thailand and in Asia.
“These LIV events bring together the best golfers in the world, in a new format which works for both players and spectators. The atmosphere has been incredible in all the events I have played so far, and to be able to experience the same on home turf is something I’m really going to relish. It’ll be something very special for Thai golf and golf fans.”
The 24-year-old Kaewkanjana, from Narathiwat, ranked second in last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit, making him eligible to compete in the LIV Golf series. He has won twice on the Asian Tour and five times on the All Thailand Golf Tour.
In this year’s Open Championship at St Andrews, Kaewkanjana tied for 11th in his first major start, shooting a closing-round 65. His T-11 finish is the best performance by a Thai player at the Open, eclipsing Thongchai Jaidee’s previous best of T-13 in 2009. In his five LIV Golf starts, his best finish is 13th in Boston.
“Playing in Thailand confirms that LIV Golf is a global league, bringing the best in the world to our country and growing the game across the region,” Kaewkanjana said. “LIV Golf is something different, something very exciting, and this week is further evidence that the series is connecting with new audiences all around the world.”
IMPORTANCE OF THE GLOBAL CALENDAR
This week’s event in Bangkok starts the two-week swing through Asia, a confirmation of LIV Golf’s intention to grow the game by showcasing its world-class golfers across the globe.
The inaugural season began in London and next week’s event in Saudi Arabia will be held in Jeddah. LIV Golf has already stated that its 2023 schedule will include tournaments in North and Latin Americas, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
“I think it's fantastic,” Australia’s Cameron Smith said after winning the LIV Golf Invitational Chicago. “That's one of the reasons why I came over here is to play golf around the world. I think my time when I was a young professional over in Asia are some of the best times of my life. Traveling with good friends and playing really good tournaments was something I'll never forget, and I'm really looking forward and really excited to what this tour is going to bring to the golf world.”
American Bryson DeChambeau added: “The game of golf is global; that's first and foremost. As I've traveled to Dubai and won overseas and played in the UK and did well this year, you start to realize the game of golf is not just a small little thing in the States. It's a global game. There's so many people that don't know this great game and haven't created amazing relationships because of not having access to this great game, and I want to provide that opportunity moving forward.”
India’s Anirban Lahiri, winner of 18 worldwide events, said being a member of LIV Golf will allow his fans back home to see him perform, especially via the live streaming service that offers uninterrupted action. Complete, live coverage of the LIV Golf Invitational Series is globally available direct to consumers on LIVGolf.com and YouTube. The LIV Golf event broadcasts are also aired live on a global roster of leading premium and free-to-air broadcasters providing coverage in more than 180 territories around the world.
“I know for a fact that people back home are excited basically because they can see me
play golf,” said Lahiri, the runner-up to Dustin Johnson in Boston. “There have been many, many, many occasions where I've played well, and they've got to see practically nothing of me. But on this platform, everybody is pretty much a spotlight. Everybody has a spotlight on them.”
Joaquin Niemann is happy that fans in his native Chile have more opportunities to follow him. “Everybody in Chile is loving it, and now they're able to watch me more during the round instead of how they were used to before,” he said. “In that way, yeah, they are really happy.”
TWO EVENTS LEFT IN INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION RACE
With just two events left in the regular season, American Dustin Johnson enters LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok atop the Individual Champion standings, followed by South Africa’s Branden Grace and Australia’s Cameron Smith.
The season-long Individual Champion competition includes the season’s first seven events, with a total purse of $30 million for the top three players of the season. First place receives $18 million, with $8 million for second place and $4 million for third place. Players must play in a minimum of four events to be eligible.
Bangkok is the sixth event of the season, with next week’s LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah as the final tournament to determine the order of finish and the podium finishers.
Points are distributed in each event to the top 24 finishers, with tiebreakers determining the exact order. Each tournament winner receives 40 points down to one point for 24th.
Thanks to his victory in Boston and four other top-10 finishes, Johnson has 118 points. Grace, the winner in Portland, has 79 points. Smith, the Chicago winner who has played two events since joining LIV Golf, has 56 points. He is just one point ahead of South African Charl Schwartzel, winner of the inaugural event in London.
All players in the field in Bangkok remain mathematically eligible for a podium finish and one of the money positions.
NEW COURSE READY TO HOST WORLD’S TOP PLAYERS
Stonehill, the host course of LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok, recently opened, and thus, is unfamiliar for the majority of the 48-player field in this week’s event. India’s Anirban Lahiri, who estimates that he has played approximately 20 tournaments in Thailand during his career, had never seen the course until tournament week. Once he did, he was immediately impressed.
“In terms of the conditions, it’s pristine. It’s holy ground,” Lahiri said. “It’s so pure out there.”
Stonehill, which can play to as much as 7,815 yards, was designed by golf course architect Kyle Phillips, whose firm is based in California but has designed courses across the globe. He was selected by Stonehill founders Sarath Ratanavadi, the CEO of Golf Energy Development Group, and his son Ing, the club’s executive director.
Phil Mickelson, making his first trip to Thailand, said the course was in “incredible shape. I don't know if I've seen a golf course in this good a condition.”
REED’S FINAL ROUNDS HELP FUEL 4 ACES 4-PEAT
Captain Dustin Johnson has been the primary catalyst for the four consecutive team titles by his 4 Aces GC. In those four wins, Johnson has one individual title and three other top 5 finishes, and is the individual points leader among all LIV golfers through the first five events this season.
But another big key to the 4 Aces’ success on American soil is the team’s final round performance. Credit one of the other Aces, Patrick Reed, for his ability to raise his game when the stakes are highest.
Since joining LIV Golf and the 4 Aces in Portland to start the win streak, Reed’s average final-round score is 67.5. That’s one stroke better than Johnson’s 68.5 average. All four of Reed’s final-round scores have counted.
In Portland, Reed shot a bogey-free 67 that included an eagle. In Bedminster, he supplied two late birdies to shoot 69 and break open a close competition. In Boston, he bounced back from a second-round 72 to shoot a 66 that also included an eagle. And in Chicago, he opened with a 74 that essentially took him out of the individual competition, but shot a final-round 68 that included two chip-ins, one for eagle.
“I knew coming in, especially with the way I played the first day, that I needed to go out and get off to a fast start and try to help out the team as much as I can and kind of rally these guys,” Reed said.
Lowest round: Lee Westwood, 62, Boston, Rd. 3
Lowest round (relative to par): Dustin Johnson, 9-under 63, Chicago, Rd. 1
Lowest tournament score: Dustin Johnson, Anirban Lahiri, Joaquin Niemann, 15-under 205, Boston (Johnson wins in playoff)
Biggest winning margin, individual: Cameron Smith, 3 strokes, Chicago
Biggest winning margin, team: Stinger GC, 14 strokes, London
Lowest team score, tournament: 4 Aces GC, 32 under, Boston
Lowest team score by round (relative to par)
Round 1 – Hy Flyers GC, 11 under, Boston; 4 Aces GC, 11 under, Chicago
Round 2 – 4 Aces GC, 12 under, Boston
Round 3 – Majesticks GC, 17 under, Boston
Most counting scores: Dustin Johnson, 14; Matt Jones, 13; Scott Vincent, 12
Holes-in-one: Matthew Wolff, Boston, Rd. 1
Most birdies, one tournament: Dustin Johnson, 21, Boston
Most fairways hit, one tournament: Lee Westwood, 37 (of 42), Bedminster
Highest driving distance average, one tournament: Matthew Wolff, 343.8-yard average, Portland
Most greens in regulation, one tournament: Joaquin Niemann, 47 (of 54), Boston
Fewest putts, one tournament: Patrick Reed, 72, Chicago