SMASH GC WINS TEAM TITLE, DJ TAKES INDIVIDUAL TROPHY IN LAS VEGAS

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Written by
LIV GOLF STAFF
Feb 10 2024
- 8 MIN
2024-02-10T00:00:00.000Z
FULL HIGHLIGHTS: DJ HAS WINNING HAND IN VEGAS; SMASH GC VICTORIOUS

LAS VEGAS – Smash GC’s dominant team performance in Saturday’s final round of LIV Golf Las Vegas allowed captain Brooks Koepka to celebrate his fifth trophy of any kind since joining LIV Golf, while teammate Talor Gooch became the first player to win trophies with three different teams.

But perhaps the most meaningful celebration came from Graeme McDowell, who joined Smash as a free-agent signee during the offseason. For the first time in his 24 starts in LIV Golf, G-Mac was able to enjoy popping champagne bottles on the podium.

“They keep handing me the trophy because I’ve never had one before,” said the 44-year-old McDowell.

The individual trophy went to someone who’s become quite familiar with celebrating a LIV Golf victory. Dustin Johnson birdied the par-4 17th Saturday to break a three-way tie and earn his third individual trophy and 10th overall as the captain of 4Aces GC.

Johnson shot a gritty final-round 1-under 69 to finish at 12 under, one shot better than Gooch and RangeGoats GC’s Peter Uihlein. Johnson was the only one of the three marquee players in the final group to break par, as Jon Rahm shot 71 and Bryson DeChambeau shot 74.

“It's a great win, and obviously today was tough,” said Johnson, who now leads the Individual Championship race through the first two events. “I knew it was going to be tough obviously with the conditions.” 

Indeed, gusty winds and chilly conditions made the final round at Las Vegas Country Club as challenging as any since LIV Golf debuted in 2022. Just 17 of 54 players broke par, and the field stroke average was more than three strokes higher than the previous two rounds.

McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland, thrived in the tough conditions. His 5-under 65 was two strokes better than any other player, as he fueled Smash’s late surge on the final holes to break open a tight leaderboard.

“I've been living in Florida for about 15 years, but thankfully I still remember how to play in the wind,” said McDowell, the only player to produce a bogey-free round Saturday, missing just one fairway and three greens. “The game has really been trending for the last six months.”

With Gooch shooting 67 and Koepka and Jason Kokrak contributed 69s, Smash shot 10 under as a team. The other 12 teams were a cumulative 66 over.

It’s the kind of performance that Koepka envisioned when he overhauled his roster in the offseason, trading for Gooch – last year’s Individual Champion – and adding McDowell to solidify the roster and provide the kind of grit he felt his team was missing during a disappointing 2023 season.

“That was the plan, to bring in two guys that have experience, that know how to win, and to be in this situation where I feel like we're competing every week,” Koepka said.

Johnson appears set to compete every week too after an inconsistent 2023 season. Although he won one individual title and two team trophies, he didn’t meet his own expectations and decided to ramp up his efforts coming into 2024.

“This year I've got a little more drive and determination because I don't enjoy not playing well,” Johnson said.

At one point Saturday, six players were tied for the lead, but Johnson battled back from three bogeys midway through his round to produce three birdies in his last six holes – including the decisive one at the 17th.

“I figured if he birdied 17, it was pretty much his, but if he didn't, I felt like I had a chance for a playoff,” said Uihlein. “He's a stud for a reason.”

TEAM COUNTING SCORES

Standings and counting scores for Saturday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Las Vegas. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. SMASH GC -33 (McDowell 65, Gooch 67, Koepka 69, Kokrak 69; Rd. 3 score: -10)

2. 4ACES GC -26 (Johnson 69, Perez 69, Varner III 70, Reed 72; Rd. 3 score: E)

3. RANGEGOATS GC -24 (Uihlein 68, Wolff 69, Watson 72, Pieters 73; Rd. 3 score: +2)

4. CRUSHERS GC -18 (Casey 68, Howell III 70, DeChambeau 74, Lahiri 74; Rd. 3 score: +6)

5. LEGION XIII -16 (Surratt 68, Hatton 70, Rahm 71, Vincent 74; Rd. 3 score: +3)

6. TORQUE GC -16 (Muñoz 68, Ortiz 69, Pereira 72, Niemann 74; Rd. 3 score: +3)

7. MAJESTICKS GC -12 (Horsfield 67, Poulter 67, Stenson 70, Westwood 72; Rd. 3 score: -4)

8. FIREBALLS GC -12 (Garcia 70, Ander 71, Chacarra 71, Puig 71; Rd. 3 score: +3)

9. CLEEKS GC -9 (Meronk 68, Samooja 68, Bland 71, Kaymer 76; Rd. 3 score: +3)

10. RIPPER GC -9 (Jones 69, Leishman 70, Smith 72, Herbert 76; Rd. 3 score: +7)

11. IRON HEADS GC -3 (Lee 70, Na 71, Vincent 71, Kozuma 75; Rd. 3 score: +7)

12. STINGER GC +5 (Burmester 71, Grace 72, Oosthuizen 73, Schwartzel 80; Rd. 3 score: +16)

13. HYFLYERS GC -13 (Mickelson 71, Tringale 72, Ogletree 77, Steele 80; Rd. 3 score: +20)

ROUND 3 NOTES

NEW RANGEGOATS IN THE MIX: RangeGoats GC Captain Bubba Watson acquired Matthew Wolff and Peter Uihlein in two offseason trades, and the two close friends were in contention for their first individual titles Saturday while playing in the same group.

Uihlein shot a 2-under 68 to finish at 11 under, tied for second behind winner Dustin Johnson. Wolff shot a 1-under 69 to finish at 10 under and solo fourth. At one point, both players were among six tied for the lead.

Thanks to their efforts, the RangeGoats finished on the podium in third place at 24 under behind Smash GC (33 under) and 4Aces GC (26 under).

“We had a great time,” said Uihlein, who finished runner-up for the fourth time in a LIV Golf tournament. “Obviously, [Wolff] had the lead for a little bit at one point. Played unbelievable. That driver he hit on 13 pitched in the middle of the green, it's like 350. You can't teach that. Pretty impressive the way he handled himself and battled. I was proud of him.”

Said Wolff, who posted his best finish since a runner-up in his second LIV Golf start at Bedminster in 2022: “I played with Peter, so when he was making birdies, I was fist-pumping him, and I definitely think there was a level of competition. I no doubt wanted to beat Peter, and I'm sure Peter wanted to beat me. But we also knew that any good was going to help our team.

“So, it was nice to have someone like that out there, and it made me feel a little bit more comfortable, too, having Peter because I play golf with him almost every single day. He's an unbelievable dude and such a good player. It's cool to learn from him and see him play well.”

GOOCH’S TRIPLE PLAY: Talor Gooch won five team titles – including the Team Championship – while playing for 4Aces GC in 2022.

Last year, he won a team title while playing for RangeGoats GC.

And now he’s won a team title in just his second start with Smash GC. He’s the only LIV Golfer to win titles with three different teams.

“I think I'm the only guy that's been with three different teams, too,” Gooch joked.

“It's great. It's what I've talked about throughout the offseason. I feel like I'm in a place with these guys, like I'm excited for the future. I'm excited for what the next few years looks like, and I'm excited for what this year looks like. I think we've got a good squad.”

Add Gooch’s three individual tournament wins last year as well as the Individual Champion title, and he’s now won 11 team or individual trophies.

“It means he's really good at golf,” said teammate Jason Kokrak.

DJ CELEBRATES WITH HIS FAMILY: Dustin Johnson’s win Saturday was the 31st in his professional career – and he was able to celebrate with plenty of family members in attendance – including his famous father-in-law, NHL legend Wayne Gretzky.

Obviously, I had my wife Paulina here and then mother, father-in-law, my dad was here, and obviously my brother is on the bag,” Johnson said. “So, it's always great when you have a bunch of friends and family around and you win.

“It doesn't seem like it happens that often, though, when you win when everyone is there. It was nice to get to enjoy that with them today, and hopefully we'll enjoy it a lot more.”

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