Written by
Mike McAllister
Feb 14 2024
- 8 MIN
Takeaways from Vegas

Six rounds – two tournaments – are in the books for the 2024 LIV Golf League. It’s still very early to jump to conclusions; nevertheless, here are six takeaways from the opening two weeks in Mayakoba and Las Vegas.

MOVES WORKING FOR BOTH TEAMS: The offseason trade between Smash GC and RangeGoats GC – considered lopsided at first glance – now seems likely to be a successful move by both teams.

Talor Gooch’s addition to the Smash lineup gives Brooks Koepka arguably the best No. 2 player in the lineup (and you can debate whether that No. 2 is actually Gooch or Koepka). Meanwhile, Matthew Wolff has found his happy place with the RangeGoats – and a contented Wolff can be lethal on the course, as evidenced by his solo fourth in Las Vegas.

But just as important as that trade are the other moves made by the two teams. That may even turn out to be more vital to each team’s success this season.

The signing of free-agent Graeme McDowell solidified the back half of the Smash lineup, and it’s already paid dividends. McDowell posted the best score in the final round at Las Vegas, a 5-under 65 to lead Smash to the team victory.

“Being around this squad and the accountability level and the work rate, the culture, I think all of those things kind of just drives us all forward,” said G-Mac, who has spent most of his LIV Golf career with Cleeks GC. “At this point in my career, I want to be held accountable. I want to push myself and see what I have left in the tank.”

Meanwhile, Bubba Watson’s acquisition of Peter Uihlein in a trade with 4Aces GC (with Harold Varner III going to DJ’s team) also has proven fruitful. Uihlein finished T-2 in Vegas, and his friendship with Wolff provides another level of support. It’s no surprise that Uihlein and Wolff seemed to get the most out of their final rounds while playing together in the same group.

“I feel like I'm in a much better spot, not only with my game but also mentally,” Wolff said after the RangeGoats finished on the podium. “I think I'm putting a little bit less pressure on myself, and that's kudos to Bubba and the team and being really supportive and just enjoying our time out here.”

“Pretty impressive the way he handled himself and battled,” said Uihlein of Wolff. “I was proud of him.”

DJ PRIMED FOR BIG SEASON: Dustin Johnson’s win in Las Vegas is an early statement that he’s wants to return to the dominant DJ of 2022 after an inconsistent performance in 2023 that left him dissatisfied.

Johnson won LIV Golf’s inaugural Individual Championship in the beta-season, then finished fifth in points last year. Not bad for most people, but DJ finished outside the top 24 in points in four starts, including a shocking 37th in the season opener.

Just as disappointing was his play in the majors – a T-48 at the Masters, a T-55 and the PGA Championship and a missed cut at The Open. At the U.S. Open, he finished T-10th but that was after sliding down the leaderboard after an opening 64.

“Last year I did not play very well,” Johnson said in his post-Vegas press conference. “It kind of goes with how much effort I put into it, too. I obviously could have worked a lot harder than I did.

“This year I've got a little more drive and determination because I don't enjoy not playing well. I enjoy playing well. I enjoy being up here talking to you guys after the week is over, and I really enjoy holding up the trophies at the end of the week.”

Johnson, who turns 40 in June, leads the Individual Champion standings through two events. The trophy he raised on the podium after his Vegas victory likely won’t be the only one this season.

JON RAHM – OF COURSE, HE’S GREAT. The Legion XIII captain has been competitive in his first two LIV Golf starts, finishing T3 in Mayakoba and solo 8th in Las Vegas. Johnson is the only other player with consecutive top-10 finishes to start the season. And Rahm is the only player to start in the leaders’ group in the final round of both events.

He hasn’t won either of the first two tournaments due to his final-round performances. In Mayakoba, 21 players – including his three Legion teammates – shot better scores than Rahm’s 1-under 70. And in Las Vegas, 25 players had better final-round scores than his 1-over 71. Maybe it’s rust from his first extended offseason, as he went 2-1/2 months between his last 2023 start and his LIV Golf debut in Mexico.

“At this point I would have maybe already played three, four events, so it's getting used to that,” he said prior to Mayakoba. “I'm very used to having to grind a little bit more during Christmas and early in the year to start competing.” 

Also, perhaps there’s still a bit of a learning curve regarding 54-hole tournaments and shotgun starts. Not including the inaugural LIV Golf event, the only player to win in his LIV debut is Henrik Stenson (2022 Bedminster). Cameron Smith (2022 Chicago) and Danny Lee (2023 Tucson) are the only ones to win in their second LIV starts.

Rahm said in Las Vegas that he forgot that the tournaments are 54 holes, not 72. He wasn’t using it as an excuse, but simply an indication that he only focuses on one round at a time.

“I remember people telling me, ‘Oh, you have to start out hot; the average score of the winner is 5 under [per round].’ I’m like, three days shoot as low as you can. That’s about it,” Rahm said.

Even so, there’s less time to make up ground. Said his Rd. 3 Las Vegas playing partner Bryson DeChambeau, the captain of Crushers GC: “You can't make a triple right off the bat. It puts you behind the 8-ball out here, and it's difficult to get it back. You can get on runs and whatnot, but in order to win, you've got to shoot low pretty much every day or play some of the best golf every single day you can. If you don't, you're going to be behind the 8-ball.”

ARE WE SURE THEY’RE NOT TWINS? Scott Vincent is 31 years old. Kieran Vincent is 26. But in the first two tournaments in 2024, they’ve been identical finishers – T-38 in Mayakoba at 3 over and T-45 in Las Vegas at 1 over.

There is one noticeable difference, at least on the tee box. The younger Vincent is much longer. Kieran ranks T-13th with Brooks Koepka in driving distance at 298.0 yards, while Scott averages 285.0, ranking 43rd.

Kieran would likely be leading the LIV Golf League in driving distance were it not for an errant tee shot on the par-5 first in Saturday’s final round at Las Vegas. His drive sailed right and into some trees, measuring just 177 yards. The previous day, Vincent’s drive on No. 1 was 310 yards. If he had equaled that distance in the final round, his season average would be 308.9 yards – nearly two yards longer than current leader Bryson DeChambeau’s 307.3 yard average.

More telling is that Kieran has posted the longest drive in each of the first two events. In Round 1 at Mayakoba, he had a drive of 351.9 yards; the next longest drive that week was Adrian Meronk’s at 329.3 yards. In Las Vegas, Kieran had a drive in the second round at 341.7 yards; the next longest was Bubba Watson’s at 328.5 yards.

“I don't think everyone realizes how far he actually does hit it,” Scott said. “But a few people that played with him last week and then saw me have been like, does he really hit it that far? It's like, yeah, he does. But quite often he's just kind of dialing back and keeping it in play, but when he does let one go, it's amazing.”

Shrugged the 5-foot-8 Kieran about his power off the tee: “Dynamite comes in small packages, I guess.”

PODIUM PARITY: No individual nor team reached the podium in both tournaments. In other words, six different individual and six different team podium finishers.

That’s an early indication that the season-long races in 2024 will be tight.

The additions of European stars Rahm Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk, improved health from Paul Casey, improved form from Graeme McDowell and a breakthrough LIV win (and round of 59) from Joaquin Niemann are already impacting the depth in a positive way. All those players currently rank inside the top 20 in points.

Meanwhile, teenager Caleb Surratt may be the most impressive newcomer. The 19-year-old from Tennessee turned pro the week of Mayakoba to join Rahm’s Legion XIII team. His first two results? T-13 in Mayakoba, T-12 in Las Vegas.

OH, THOSE HIGH COUNTING SCORES: Last season, the highest counting score in the 13 regular-season tournament was the 6-over 77 shot by Scott Vincent in the first round at Andalucía.

With the new format change of every final-round score counting towards the team total, there have already been two counting scores of 77 (by Andy Ogletree and Harold Varner III) and two others of 80 (Charl Schwartzel and Brendan Steele).

There truly is nowhere to hide if things go south in the final round, and the impact can be devastating. The Stingers and HyFlyers each started the final round in Vegas just a few shots off the top 8, but they shot 16 over and 20 over, respectively, as a team to finish at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Meanwhile, the two winning teams (Legion XIII in Mayakoba, Smash in Las Vegas) each had the best individual performer of the final round.

Going low, of course, is the goal for each player. But avoiding those high scores are equally important in the final round. It’s why the format change will be so intriguing the rest of the season.

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