PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – The foursome of Carlos Ortiz, Joaquin Niemann, Sebastián Muñoz and Mito Pereira enjoy hanging out together. They even share vacations, such as this offseason when they went to the Patagonia region of Chile to tour some of the glaciers.
So, it seems fitting that they’ll finally be able to compete together starting with this week’s 2024 LIV Golf League season opener at Mayakoba.
Ortiz, the 32-year-old from Mexico, has spent the first two LIV Golf seasons playing for Sergio Garcia’s Fireballs GC. But with a chance to join his buddies on Torque GC, Ortiz rejected the contract offer extended to him by the Fireballs for finishing in the top 24 Lock Zone last season.
Instead, he became a free agent and signed with Torque, taking over the spot held by David Puig, who then jumped to Fireballs to become the third Spaniard on that roster.
Ortiz’s move is not surprising. He’s very tight with his fellow Latin Americans – Niemann and Pereira are from Chile, Muñoz from Colombia. When Pereira and Muñoz joined LIV Golf prior to last season, it only seemed a matter of time before Ortiz would join them.
“It was meant to happen,” said Ortiz, who was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco. “These guys are my friends. We’ve been traveling together since the other tours. I just felt it was time.”
Ortiz and Muñoz have known each other the longest. They were teammates on the University of North Texas golf team for two seasons between 2011-13, winning two Sun Belt Conference titles during that time. They remained close after that. Muñoz is the godfather to one of Ortiz’s daughters.
“We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’re always pushing each other to be better,” Muñoz said. “We’re like family.”
Ortiz first met Pereira in the developmental tours and Niemann on the PGA Tour. It was then they all became travel partners.
With the creation of LIV Golf and its team component, the four had visions of playing together. Ortiz joined first and became a key contributor for the Fireballs; it was his clutch birdie putt on the final hole of his debut in Portland in 2022 that vaulted the team to its first podium result, and he also finished second individually that week.
Niemann joined LIV Golf two tournaments later in Boston, becoming the Torque captain. Muñoz and Pereira followed for 2023.
Those three, along with Puig, became the surprise team of 2023. Torque won four times in the regular season – the most tournament victories of any team. As the league’s youngest lineup, they took an aggressive approach, leading in driving distance average (311.3 yards) and tying RangeGoats GC for best scoring average (69.1).
In winning their fourth title of the season at LIV Golf Greenbrier, they set a league record with a cumulative counting score of 49 under. Eventually they finished a disappointing third at the Team Championship.
Running it back with the same lineup would’ve been fine – Puig, the league’s youngest player, is just hitting his stride – but signing Ortiz was a no-brainer.
“David is a great, great player and we had a great relationship with him,” Pereira said. “But I think the idea from the beginning was to be the four of us. We’re really happy to be playing together.”
Said Ortiz: “We always wanted to be together. Honestly, it was not forced. It just happened now and it’s perfect.”
Perhaps the only trouble spot for Torque last year was its lack of consistency. The spectacular wins were counterbalanced by too many lackluster showings; of their nine non-winning finishes last year, Torque had just one other podium. That’s why they entered the Team Championship as the third seed, not the first.
Then in Miami, Torque advanced to the top tier competing for the team championship. Niemann shot a 6-under 66 but the other three combined to shoot even par, as the team took third place, five strokes behind the winning Crushers GC.
“We were just talking about it, how it was funny during the whole season, they played great, and I didn’t play my best,” Niemann said. “And then on the last tournament, I played well, and they were there, you know? We were laughing at it because there’s not much we can do. Good golf comes when you least suspect it.”
By adding Ortiz, who becomes the oldest player on the team, Torque hopes to be more consistent. In 19 regular-season starts, he’s finished with individual points 14 times, and he has six top-10 points finishes. He’s been a runner-up twice.
Pereira also had two podium results last year while Muñoz was the runner-up last year in Orlando. Niemann had two third-place finishes in his first four starts in 2022.
“If we can get a little bit more consistency,” Pereira said, “we’re going to be really good.”
Actually, Torque’s already really good. Four team trophies last year will attest to that. But the team hasn’t enjoyed the individual success to match their team trophies. That’s why there’s a bet among the four to see who’ll be the first one to celebrate an individual title atop the podium.
“Each of us knows what we have to do,” Niemann said. “So, we’re going to be fighting against each other, trying to make sure our rounds count.”
Four good friends, battling each other but above all else, batting the other LIV Golf teams. They won plenty of trophies last year but came up short on the final day of the season in Miami.
There’s a new face in the lineup but the same determination.
“We intend to take the whole thing down,” Muñoz said. “We intend to get our hands on a lot of trophies.”