Two regular-season events remain in the 2023 LIV Golf League schedule, followed by the season-ending Team Championship in Miami in late October. With teams still jockeying for seeds and tournament trophies, here’s a question for each club. Hopefully the final stretch will provide some answers.
It was shocking to see 4Aces GC – last year’s dominant team and this season’s league leaders since the second week of the season – finish in last place at Greenbrier. The Aces brushed it off as a course that simply didn’t fit their collective games, but a middle-of-the-pack sixth in Bedminster – on a course they won on in 2022 – probably wasn’t the bounce-back they were hoping to achieve.
Thanks to their consistency, depth and championship pedigree, the 4Aces remain on track for the top seed in Miami. But they have just one podium finish (a win in London) in the last five starts, and as Greenbrier showed, they’re not above producing a clunker.
Four trophies with Joaquin Niemann’s revamped (and phonetically renamed) lineup has been the most impressive performance by any team this season. Despite all that success, Torque GC has yet to claim individual glory. Newcomers Mito Pereira and Sebastian Munoz each have a second-place finish, while David Puig and Niemann have recent top 10s.
Those four team titles reflect their depth, which is as strong as any of the 12 teams. But they’d certainly love to sweep both trophies at one of the final two regular-season events. Pereira has the most incentive, as he’s sixth in individual points and has the best shot to finish in the bonus-paying top three.
The South Africans have six podium finishes this season, tied with 4Aces for most in the league. Four of those podiums have been third-place results – including the last three tournaments. It’s a remarkable string of consistency, especially given the injury issues that have plagued the Stingers this season.
But is third place their ceiling? The 4Aces and Torque are the only teams with multiple wins, and that has proven to be the difference in the standings. The Stingers will likely earn a first-round bye in Miami, but they’ll need to reach that next gear to claim the Team Championship.
Charles Howell III opened the season with an individual win in Mayakoba while the Crushers claimed the team title. Bryson DeChambeau won in Greenbrier with a historic 61-58 weekend. The only other team this season with two individual champions is RangeGoats GC with Talor Gooch and Harold Varner III. But with Anirban Lahiri’s recent form, the Crushers could become the first team with three different winners.
Lahiri was runner-up in his last LIV start at Bedminster, and he followed that with a third place in England and a T14 at St Andrews Bay in two International Series tournaments. “I’m definitely chasing my win,” Lahiri said. “I've been chasing it for a while now. I've come close a bunch of times. That's my focus, that's my goal.”
Talor Gooch has three wins this season. Harold Varner III has one. But their individual success has only produced one team victory for the RangeGoats, who sit in fifth place – and outside the top four that will receive first-round byes in Miami – with two tournaments left.
The RangeGoats are the only team to finish with points (top 8) in each of the first 11 tournaments. That’s worth applauding, but with captain Bubba Watson and newcomer Thomas Pieters each in the bottom third of the individual standings, the team hasn’t really maximized its effort. One of them needs to step up to help the RangeGoats secure a bye. And if both Watson and Pieters can find their form? The Goats will be tough to beat in Miami.
Last October, Eugenio Chacarra became LIV Golf’s youngest champion by winning at Bangkok at age 22, just four months after turning pro. His winning total of 19 under was the lowest of any champion last season, and only exceeded this season by Bryson DeChambeau’s Greenbrier win at 23 under.
Chacarra has struggled to build on that success, as he’s been slowed by injuries. But as the recent International Series’ St Andrews Bay Championship showed, Chacarra is back to winning form, outlasting Matt Jones in an epic 10-hole playoff to win his second pro title.
That’s good news for the Fireballs, who are mathematically eliminated from earning a first-round bye. A hot Chacarra (along with a resurgent Abraham Ancer) will make them dangerous in Miami.
With two victories and four other top 10s this season, Cameron Smith has taken the lead in the Individual Champion standings, 21 points ahead of Talor Gooch. No one is surprised when Smith raises a trophy, but now his Aussie teammates also know the feeling, with Ripper GC winning its first team title at Bedminster. The support group has finally arrived.
Marc Leishman is playing his best golf of the year, with top-10 point finishes in two of his last three starts. Matt Jones comes off that runner-up finish at St Andrews Bay, another good sign. And Jediah Morgan, fighting to avoid relegation, comes off a final-round 66 at Bedminster, the lowest score of the day.
The Rippers finished second in Miami last year when they were known as Punch GC. Smith was the key on the final day at Doral, but if his teammates also make some noise, they could move up one step on the podium.
Brooks Koepka arrived at LIV Golf DC celebrating his win at the PGA Championship. By the end of the week, no one attached to Smash GC felt like celebrating after a 12th-place finish fueled by internal drama, specifically with the captain and Matthew Wolff.
Somehow, Smash finished fifth in its next start, but they’ve been outside the points in the last three tournaments. Wolff proved at Greenbrier that he’s a young player with immense talent, and perhaps it was his way of auditioning for other teams should he become a free agent after the season. For now, Smash is the mystery team – and perhaps the most fascinating one.
Phil Mickelson’s HyFlyers GC seem to have turned the corner in its last two starts – a fourth in Greenbrier, followed by a fifth in Bedminster. It’s the team’s best two-tournament stretch, but they remain without a podium finish this season.
The additions of Cameron Tringale and Brendan Steele have made the HyFlyers a viable contender, and if Mickelson can build on his performance at Bedminster – he was tied for second entering the final round before finishing top 10 – the HyFlyers should make bigger noise down the stretch.
After a slow start to the season, Majesticks GC seemed on the verge of improved form during a four-tournament stretch in which they finished inside the points in each start and finished a season-best fifth two times. One of those results was in front of their “home” crowd in London. But at Bedminster, they finished 12th, a disappointing 36 shots off the winning team total.
For the season, co-captain Henrik Stenson is the team’s top individual performer, ranked 27th; that’s the lowest ranking by any team’s No. 1 player. Of the four current active Majesticks, Stenson has the team’s only top 10 individual finishes.
Whether Sam Horsfield returns down the stretch remains a question, but that’s not really the issue. Of 33 collective starts this season by the three co-captains, just 11 have been point-producing (top 24) finishes. That 33% conversion rate by the Big Three needs to be higher.
In just his second LIV Golf start, Danny Lee won in Tucson with a dramatic birdie putt in the four-man playoff. While claiming Iron Heads GC’s first trophy of any kind, Lee also earned 40 points and moved to third in the individual standings. In the following nine starts, he’s earned one point and dropped to 26th in the standings.
Lee has yet to recreate the putting success he enjoyed in Tucson when he ranked T2 in the field in fewest putts. He’s currently 37th in putting for the season. “You’ve got to be on your game to finish in the top 20 there and my game was a little bit off with the putting,” Lee said, adding that he’s “trying to get the momentum back” with his game.
It may have gone a bit under your radar, but 50-year-old Richard Bland has raised his game in recent weeks and now ranks 22nd in points. If he can stay inside the top 24 through the final two regular-season events, he’ll be guaranteed a spot in next year’s LIV Golf League.
The Cleeks haven’t had much to celebrate this season – they’ve sat at the bottom of the standings ever since late May – but a Blandy Top 24 finish would definitely be a feel-good result.