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TEAM RIVALRIES DEVELOPING: ‘YOU DON’T WANT TO LOSE TO THE STINGERS’

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
May 23 2024
- 6 MIN
Stinger Handshake

As a member of 4Aces GC, Patrick Reed is well aware that his team has worn a target on its collective back since dominating LIV Golf’s inaugural 2022 season. But which teams do the 4Aces count as their key rivals?

Reed was asked that question earlier this week during a conference call to promote the next LIV Golf tournament in Houston, his hometown, on June 7-9. In response, he mentioned last year’s Team Champions, the Crushers captained by Bryson DeChambeau. He also cited LIV Golf’s hottest current team, the all-Australian Ripper GC, which has won the last two tournaments, including their hometown event in Adelaide.

And then he mentioned Stinger GC.

“You don't want to lose to the Stingers because they let you hear it every time,” Reed said. “They're a fun group of guys to be around, but if you lose to them, you hear about it. So they're always at the top of the list to make sure you clip the Stingers as many times as you can.”

Reed called it friendly banter, with no ill will existing between the all-American Aces and the all-South African Stingers. But it’s an indication that LIV Golf’s team competition is developing some interesting battles in just the second full League season.

Certainly, the addition of Jon Rahm’s expansion Legion XIII – and its debut success in Mayakoba – offers a compelling new rival, especially with Rahm and teammate Tyrrell Hatton's history as partners in the winning European squad last year at the Ryder Cup.

Four of the League’s 13 teams have players from the same country – 4Aces and HyFlyers GC (USA), Rippers (Australia) and Stingers (South Africa). Four others have three players from the same country (Fireballs GC/Spain, Majesticks GC/England, RangeGoats GC/USA, Smash GC/USA). Meanwhile, Torque GC has four players from South America.

In contrast, three teams have players from four different countries (Cleeks GC, Iron Heads GC and Legion XIII). In fact, the Iron Heads have players that represent four different continents – although captain Kevin Na leans more into his team’s Asian heritage. He and Danny Lee were born in South Korea, Jinichiro Kozuma is from Japan and Zimbabwean Scott Vincent played mostly on the Japan and Asian tours before earning his spot on LIV Golf.

“I know what you're saying with Vino being from Zimbabwe, Danny with the New Zealand passport,” said Na, who moved to the U.S. as a youngster and plays under the American flag. “But I think we're Team Asia.”

Meanwhile, the opportunity for players to move – or be traded – among teams also has created an intriguing dynamic.

Talor Gooch’s decision to leave the 4Aces and join the RangeGoats in the offseason between 2022 and 2023 created some interesting verbal jabs between he and Aces Captain Dustin Johnson. Smash’s decision to trade Matthew Wolff to the RangeGoats in exchange for Gooch last offseason was fueled by chemistry issues and created a storyline going into 2024. LIV Golf’s first midseason trade window that’s currently in effect recently spawned a juicy rumor involving a swap of two players; there was plenty of internal buzz in the locker room, although the potential deal never reached serious negotiations.

The point is that each team has some sort of identity, whether it comes in the form of shared backgrounds, common traits, long-term friendships or simply the strong presence of its captain (Crushers GC = Bryson’s Team). Those traits help develop rivalries and build fan bases to engage in those rivalries.

“You're going to see a lot more interactions from teams,” said DeChambeau when asked where LIV Golf is headed. “I think the competition between the teams will get heightened. The rivalries will get heightened. There's already some sort of rivalries going on right now, but as the years go on and people are going to win championships, that team championship at the end of the year last year like the Crushers did, I think there's going to be a lot of rivalries to be produced that you'll see, and [the] stories to be told I think will be pretty insane over the next 5-10 years.”

Added Na: “Once [fans] find a team that they like and they want to root for, they don't only just root for one player, they root for four. To be part of a team that you support, to have their gear on, to have their hats, shirts, sponsors, and know the team in depth by their players' bio, whether it's sponsors and whatever the team chemistry is, I think there's more to cheer for and more to follow.”

Reed, who earned his Captain America nickname by virtue of his spirited team performances for the U.S. in international competitions like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, appreciates that LIV Golf tournaments go beyond the individual leaderboard. He, like many LIV players, check on their teammates’ scores first before looking at their own standing during play.

“When it was just individual, you had a couple of guys here or there [as rivals],” Reed said. “Now it's like, all right, we're going against the team. When you go to Australia, you want to take down the Australian team because they're the hometown guys. Now you're going into territories, playing against different territories, and the crowds get behind those guys. It's insane.

“When you go to London, you have the Majesticks and how much the fans get behind them. It makes it fun because the crowds heckle each team or player that's not at home. That's something that's been missing in golf. In other sports, you have the home team and the away teams. It brings a different dynamic, makes it more fun and exciting than just watching guys hit golf balls.”

Anyone who saw or attended LIV Golf Adelaide felt the power of how one team can bring together an entire gallery of fans. More than 94,000 were in attendance during the three days at The Grange, and they were all rooting for the Rippers … thus, in effect, rooting against the other 12 teams.

That was never more evident during LIV Golf’s first-ever team playoff on the Sunday, where the Rippers faced the Stingers. No surprise that the South Africans were treated as the hostile enemy – and the Rippers fully expect the same treatment if the roles are ever reversed. “First time we go to South Africa, and if we’re in a playoff with the Stingers,” said Marc Leishman, “I think we’ll embrace that they can do whatever the hell they want to us.”

RangeGoats Captain Bubba Watson is one of 34 LIV golfers competing this year who played collegiate golf in the U.S.. He also has experience as both a player and vice-captain in the Ryder Cup. He said LIV Golf’s team competition is “college golf all over again right? We love team sports. We pull for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. So, team golf, to me, is where the future is. It's fun.”

It’s even more fun when there’s a bit of trash talk involved. The guys with the South African accents evidently have it perfected.

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