LIV GOLF INVITATIONAL CHICAGO: FIVE KEY QUESTIONS

Written by LIV GOLF STAFF

Fresh off the most dramatic tournament in LIV Golf’s inaugural season, the fifth event of 2022 takes place this week at LIV Golf Invitational Chicago. With the recent addition of world-class players now getting settled, it should be an electrifying week. For those fans planning to attend, here are five key questions that will be answered at Rich Harvest Farms.

After double-dipping trophies for the first time, will DJ repeat?

Dustin Johnson, the 4 Aces GC captain, celebrated team titles in Portland and Bedminster, but individually he had yet to post his first LIV Golf win. That all changed in Boston when he rolled in a 55-foot eagle putt to win the three-man playoff. He’s now the second golfer to celebrate winning the individual and team title at the same tournament, with Stinger GC’s Charl Schwartzel having done so in the inaugural event in London.

Johnson certainly has been the most consistent golfer through the first four events. He leads the Individual Points Standings and has posted top 10 finishes in each start (his 4 Aces GC teammate Talor Gooch also has done so but is still looking for his first individual win). Every one of Johnson’s rounds has been a counting score for 4 Aces, and in the three wins, he’s a collective 33 under.

Johnson said his motivation to succeed has been as high as ever. One of the reasons is simple: “I like trophies,” he said. He’ll go into Chicago with one thing in mind – to repeat the double-trophy celebration.

Who leads the list of chasers?

There are 47 players hoping to knock off DJ from the top of the podium, and the action at Rich Harvest Farms promises to be just as competitive as it was in Boston.

New LIV Golf members Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann and Anirban Lahiri came out firing in their debuts. Niemann and Lahiri were part of the three-man playoff, while Smith finished one stroke behind.

Majesticks GC captain Lee Westwood is striking the ball as well as he did while rising to world No. 1 a few years ago. He flirted with shooting 59 in the final round at Boston, eventually settling for a 62 that establishes the new LIV Golf low score for a single round.

Talor Gooch has led at least one statistic category in each of his first four starts, and also has top 10 finishes in each. Maybe he becomes the second 4 Aces GC member to lift the individual title.

Henrik Stenson is back in the field after having to withdraw in Boston due to vertigo. His LIV Golf debut was a success, as he won in Bedminster. The Swedish star will be hungry to return to action.

Matthew Wolff had an off-week with the putter and still finished inside the top 15. He’ll look to bounce back for Hy Flyers GC.

Veteran stars such as Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak made noise in Boston and appear to be on the verge of a podium climb.

Have 4 Aces GC become LIV Golf’s first dynasty?

Obviously it depends on your definition of dynasty. Webster defines it as a “powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.” Given that LIV Golf is now four tournaments old, and Johnson’s team has won the last three team trophies … well, that seems to meet the criteria for a dynasty.

At the inaugural event in London, 4 Aces GC finished in fifth place, 18 strokes behind team winner Stinger GC, which boasts an all-South African lineup. Since arriving in America and overhauling the lineup prior to Portland, 4 Aces is unbeaten. Johnson added Patrick Reed and Pat Perez, while Gooch moved over from Torque GC – which he captained in London – to round out the all-American foursome.

“DJ came up to me in England for the first one at Centurion and said, ‘Hey, let’s not lose to these South Africans anymore. Let’s go and get some trophies,” Gooch recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.’”

Since then, 4 Aces are a cumulative 80 under in their 21 counting scores, with Johnson leading the way at 33 under in the last three events. The team won in Portland by seven strokes, then in Bedminster by eight strokes. In Boston, they had to rally from a five-stroke deficit midway through the final round, eventually winning by two strokes.

Of those 21 counting rounds, all but one has been under par, and 12 have been 4 under or better. Gooch and Reed are each 22 under in their counting rounds, while Perez is 3 under in his two rounds that have counted.

After the 4 Aces won in Boston, Perez was asked if the team could now be considered a dynasty. He turned to look at his three teammates. “They are,” he replied. “I’m just holding on by a thread.”

Which teams are likely to dethrone the champs in Chicago?

The recent addition of new world-class players made an immediate positive impact on the depth of various teams, a big reason why the team competition in Chicago is expected to be the tightest at any LIV Golf event thus far this season.

Majesticks GC has produced three podium finishes in the first four events. The addition of major winner Stenson prior to Bedminster paid quick dividends, as he won the individual title and led the Majesticks to a runner-up finish. Stenson was a late scratch in Boston due to vertigo, but teenager Shergo Al Kurdi filled in admirably. Thanks to Westwood’s hot hand, Majesticks took third place.

Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC added Lahiri to its lineup, and India’s top-ranked player provided immediate help, finishing second individually after making the three-man playoff. The Crushers also took second, two strokes behind 4 Aces GC. With Paul Casey and Charles Howell III also on the team, DeChambeau has a veteran, savvy roster that will be a threat each time out.

The all-Spanish speaking Fireballs GC finished sixth in Boston after consecutive podium finishes, and will always be among the contenders. Abraham Ancer had his best result since joining LIV, and captain Sergio Garcia also played well, as each finished inside the top 10.

Stinger GC finished a disappointing 10th and will look to bounce back to the kind of form the all-South African team showed in the first two events.

Iron Heads GC held the lead for most of the final round in Boston, and are obviously capable of making serious noise. Captain Kevin Na can lean on two top players from Thailand in ball-striker Sadom Kaewkanjana and long-hitting Phachara Khongwatmai.

Hy Flyers GC showed signs of life, entering the final round in second place. Captain Phil Mickelson is also starting to get things cranked up.

What about the new captains and their teams?

The addition of world top 20 players Smith and Niemann immediately provided a significant jolt to their teams.

Smith was named the new captain for the all-Australian Punch GC, and he did not disappoint in his LIV Golf debut. He was in contention until the very end, finishing one stroke out of the lead. With sidekick Marc Leishman also joining the team, Punch GC will be a worthy competitor each week.

Niemann became the captain of Torque GC and nearly led the team to a podium finish. Niemann was part of the three-man playoff for the individual title and called his LIV Golf debut “the best experience” he has ever had on a golf course.

Two-time major winner Bubba Watson is the non-playing captain for Niblicks GC. Sidelined after undergoing knee surgery, Watson won’t play in a LIV Golf event until 2023, but he’s taking a serious approach with his captain duties and will lean on good friend Harold Varner III to move up the team standings.

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