After sifting through the statistics from LIV Golf Mayakoba, here are a dozen items of interest about the season-opening results of the new LIV Golf League:
How worthy of a champion was Charles Howell III of Crushers GC? Consider this: He was 4 under on the par-3 holes, 5 under on the par-4 holes and 7 under on the par-5 holes. No other player in the 48-man field was under par for all three categories. Also, consider this: On a tight, jungle-lined course, Howell suffered just two holes over par – a double bogey in the first round and a bogey in the second round. Not surprising, he led the field in bogey avoidance.
The 8-under 63 by Howell was the lowest final-round score shot by any of the first eight individual champions in LIV Golf history. The previous final-round lows were the 65s shot by Branden Grace in Portland and Dustin Johnson in Boston.
Speaking of Grace, the Stinger GC star started off the 2023 season much like he did a year ago at the inaugural LIV Golf tournament in London, with a third-place podium finish. Howell, Grace and second-place finisher Peter Uihlein were the only three players to shoot in the 60s in every round.
Pat Perez of 4Aces GC had his best performance as a LIV Golf member, finishing seventh in points. After two rounds at even par, Perez produced a final-round 5-under 66 to vault into the top 10. It was the third lowest round of the day. Perez also contributed counting scores in each round for the first time. Much like Howell, Perez likely felt a comfort level at El Camaleon. Of the 48 players in the field, only Howell has made more pro starts (14) at Mayakoba than Perez (11).
Brendan Steele (HyFlyers GC) gets medalist honors among the six players making their LIV Golf debuts. Steele finished at 6 under after his sizzling 65 in the final round, tying Cameron Smith for sixth place on the leaderboard. Other newcomers included: Sebastian Munoz (Torque GC) at 5 under, Mito Pereira (Torque GC) at 3 under, Dean Burmester (Stinger GC) at 1 under, Thomas Pieters (RangeGoats GC) at 2 over and Danny Lee (Iron Heads GC) at 3 over. Of the newbies' collective 18 rounds, 16 counted for their respective teams.
With Munoz, Pereira and captain Joaquin Niemann each finishing inside the top 16 in points, Torque gained its first podium finish after failing to do so with varying lineups last season. The Spanish-speaking team didn’t have a great start – 5 over after the first round – but rallied with six counting scores in the 60s for the final two days.
Just two teams out of the 12 had the same three contributors in each round. Iron Heads GC relied exclusively on Scott Vincent, captain Kevin Na and Lee, while Smash GC did the same with Matthew Wolff, Jason Kokrak and captain Brooks Koepka.
Dustin Johnson’s 7-over 78 was certainly unexpected. In his first 23 regular-season rounds as a LIV Golfer, DJ had just one round above par – a 1-over 73 in the second round last year in Chicago. He did not finish outside the top 24 in points in any start last year, and in fact he had just one non-top 10 result, a 16th at Bangkok. So to see him end up 37th in Mayakoba is shocking. The easiest explanations? He finally encountered a course that did not suit his game … or maybe he was just due for an off-day.
Hitting greens in regulation is the path to success at El Camaleon. The three podium teams were also the teams that collectively had the highest GIR percentage, with the Crushers leading in that category at 69%, 4Aces at 67% and Torque at 65%. Meanwhile, seven of the top 10 individual finishers in points also finished in the top 10 in GIR. Howell was first in that category, hitting 43 of 54 greens.
Carlos Ortiz holds the LIV Golf record of three-putt avoidance with 184 consecutive holes. It’s a mark that remains active. He hasn’t suffered a three-putt since the second round last year in Chicago, when he bogeyed the par-4 12th hole. Fireballs GC teammate Eugenio Chacarra is second on the list (overall and active) with 179 consecutive holes without a three-putt. Johnson saw his streak of 164 holes without a three-putt end on the 18th hole in the first round at Mayakoba.
DJ failing to contribute on Sunday and Patrick Reed shooting three rounds over par would seem, on the surface, to be too much for the defending champion 4Aces GC to overcome. And yet they still managed a second-place finish thanks to Uihlein and Perez playing well and counting in each round. Give the 4Aces credit for a podium finish despite not running on all cylinders.
Just three players recorded lower final rounds than Phil Mickelson’s 4-under 67. Lefty's final-round scoring average in his last 5 LIV regular-season starts going back to last season is 68.4. His HyFlyers GC had the second best performance on Sunday with a collective 11 under. The winning Crushers were 12 under on the final day.