The top four seeds entering this week’s LIV Golf Team Championship survived upset bids during a tense match-play semi-final on Saturday and will now compete for the team title in Sunday’s final championship round of the 2023 season.
Defending champion 4Aces GC, along with Crushers GC, Torque GC and RangeGoats GC, advanced to the top tier that will battle in stroke-play competition on Sunday on the iconic Blue Monster at Trump National Doral.
Unlike regular-season events in which three scores counted for the team competition, every player’s score will count on Sunday.
“It takes a whole team effort tomorrow,” said 4Aces Captain Dustin Johnson. “I like it. It’s four teams and we’re battling for the trophy.”
Sunday’s final round will begin with a shotgun start at 1:05pm EDT with players in foursomes determined by their tiers. The captains of the top four teams will tee off at 1:18pm EDT.
Johnson survived a late rally by HyFlyers GC Captain Phil Mickelson to win his singles match, 2 & 1. The outcome was pivotal after the HyFlyers’ Cameron Tringale beat Patrick Reed, 4 & 3, in the other singles match while the 4Aces’ Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein won their foursomes match against Brendan Steele and James Piot.
Johnson was 2 up through 13 holes, but Mickelson tied the match two holes later. Johnson responded by winning the next two holes for the 4Aces’ 2-1 team win.
“I played a lot of golf with Phil and I knew it was going to be a good match,” Johnson said. “It always is. … I knew it was going to come down to me and Phil.”
The 2023 individual champion, Talor Gooch of RangeGoats GC, was 1 down through 15 holes to young Fireballs GC star Eugenio Chacarra. With the other two matches split, the RangeGoats’ fate was in his hands, and Gooch responded by winning the final three holes.
“He put up a great fight,” Gooch said of Chacarra, who was the best player in Friday’s quarter-finals with a 6 & 5 win over the Majesticks’ Sam Horsfield. “It was a dogfight. I made a few mistakes that he capitalised on. But fortunately we were able to come through in the end.”
Crushers GC captain Bryson DeChambeau had a stellar performance in beating Cleeks GC captain Martin Kaymer. DeChambeau played his final 11 holes in nine under.
The Crushers won the other singles match, with Paul Casey’s 7 & 5 win over Richard Bland, to advance with a 2-1 victory.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said DeChambeau, whose team lost in the semi-finals in 2022. “Last year we left pretty sour, and this year is a different story. We’ve got some guys who are playing some better golf and I’m playing a little bit better. Hopefully, I can do that tomorrow and give ourselves an opportunity to win. We’ve been prepping for this all year.”
Torque GC, who won a league-best four tournament titles this season, swept Stinger GC 3-0. Sebastian Munoz had the most dominant victory of the day, beating Branden Grace, 7 & 6, and Niemann never trailed in his 2 & 1 win over Louis Oosthuizen.
“We still have one more day,” Niemann said. “But this is the position that we wanted to be in.”
Gooch has the opportunity to win both the Individual and Team Championships, a feat that Johnson accomplished last season. He also has the chance to win the team title with two different teams, having played for the 4Aces last year.
“This was the plan from the get-go,” Gooch said. “We’re in position. It’s time to go do it.”
For Sunday’s finals, all 48 players among the 12 teams will compete in one round of stroke play, with all four players’ scores counting toward their team’s score.
The four semi-final winners compete for places 1-4, with the teams defeated in the semi-finals competing for places 5-8. The teams defeated in Friday’s quarterfinals compete for places 9-12.
Larger prizes are awarded to teams based on their finishing position, with $14-million earned by the team champion.
Tier 1: Competing for 1st through 4th
4Aces GC: Dustin Johnson (c), Pat Perez, Patrick Reed, Peter Uihlein
Crushers GC: Bryson DeChambeau (c), Paul Casey, Charles Howell III, Anirban Lahiri
Torque GC: Joaquin Niemann (c), Sebastian Muñoz, Mito Pereira, David Puig
RangeGoats GC: Bubba Watson (c), Talor Gooch, Thomas Pieters, Harold Varner III
Tier 2: Competing for 5th through 8th
Stinger GC: Louis Oosthuizen (c), Dean Burmester, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel
Fireballs GC: Sergio Garcia (c), Abraham Ancer, Eugenio Chacarra, Carlos Ortiz
HyFlyers GC: Phil Mickelson (c), James Piot, Brendan Steele, Cameron Tringale
Cleeks GC: Martin Kaymer (c), Richard Bland, Graeme McDowell, Bernd Wiesberger
Tier 3: Competing for 9th through 12th
Iron Heads GC: Kevin Na (c), Scott Vincent, Sihwan Kim, Danny Lee
Majesticks GC: Henrik Stenson (co-c), Ian Poulter (co-c), Lee Westwood (co-c), Sam Horsfield
Ripper GC: Cameron Smith (c), Marc Leishman, Matt Jones, Jediah Morgan
Smash GC: Brooks Koepka (c), Jason Kokrak, Chase Koepka, Matthew Wolff
Photo: Sam Greenwood/LIV Golf