With two tournaments remaining in the regular season, just nine players have a chance to become the 2023 LIV Golf League Individual Champion – and Ripper GC Captain Cameron Smith might wrap up the season-long race by winning next week’s LIV Golf Chicago.
Smith, having won two of the last three LIV Golf tournaments, currently has a 21-point lead over RangeGoats GC’s three-time winner Talor Gooch, while 4Aces GC’s Patrick Reed sits in third, 50 points behind. (Click here for full standings)
Smith will clinch the title in Chicago if he wins (worth 40 points) and Gooch finishes off the podium – i.e., no better than fourth (worth 18 points). Smith won for the first time as a LIV member last year at Rich Harvest Farms and will enter next week as the favorite.
All other players besides Gooch will be mathematically eliminated from winning the Individual crown should Smith finish either first or second in Chicago. The Individual Champion, as well as the bonus-earning top three finishers, will be officially awarded after next month's LIV Golf Jeddah.
Besides Smith and Gooch, the other players who’ll enter next week still alive in the Individual Champion race are Reed, Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka, Stinger GC’s Branden Grace, Torque GC’s Mito Pereira, Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau, 4Aces GC Captain and defending Individual Champion Dustin Johnson and RangeGoats GC’s Harold Varner III.
Their fates hinge not only on their own performances in Chicago but how Smith finishes.
Reed, for instance, must finish inside the top nine on the points leaderboard to have any hope. Even then, he’ll may be eliminated depending on where Smith finishes.
Meanwhile, Johnson must win and hope Smith finishes no better than ninth on the points leaderboard. If Smith finishes outside the points (top 24), then DJ could finish second and remain alive. Beyond those two scenarios, Johnson’s title defense will officially end.
Gooch, the points leader for most of the season until Smith moved ahead of him by winning the most recent LIV event in Bedminster, will remain alive no matter what he does, as long as Smith finishes fourth or worse.
Here’s a look at every scenario for the eight players chasing Smith. Please note that these involve the points leaderboard with tiebreakers (not the traditional golf leaderboard that includes ties).
IF SMITH FINISHES …
Starting with Charles Howell III, who’s currently 10th in points, all players more than 80 points behind Smith have been eliminated from the No. 1 spot.
Even so, finishing second and third in season-long points is still an attractive outcome for players since it comes with significant bonus money from the Individual Champion pool.
Theoretically, the top 29 players on the points list remain in contention for a top-three finish (Reed, the current No. 3, has 120 points). With the maximum of 80 points still available by sweeping the individual titles at Chicago and Jeddah, that means even David Puig (No 29 with 40 points) is not mathematically eliminated.
But for middle-of-the-standings players like Puig, the more realistic incentive is to finish inside the top 24 in season-long points to earn a guaranteed spot for the 2024 LIV Golf League season.
Currently, Pat Perez is the bubble boy at No. 24 with 47 points. That’s an average of 4.3 points for the first 11 tournaments. If that average stays constant, that means a projected total of 56 points for the 24th spot.
With two regular-season tournaments remaining, big moves can still be made.
Cleeks GC’s Richard Bland was 41st in points after LIV Golf Andalucía but has finished top 11 in his last three starts and is now inside the bubble at 22nd. Fireballs GC’s Abraham Ancer was 41st in points going into Bedminster but posted a LIV-career-best third and jumped 11 spots to 30th.
It’s a sprint to the finish. Whether it’s the Individual Champion race or security for 2024, there’s plenty at stake for all 48 players.