KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – The final individual tournament of the year for LIV Golf League was held at King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia October 13-15 with Brooks Koepka winning another playoff, and Fireballs GC enjoyed another team victory. But on the final day of the 2023 LIV Golf League regular season, Talor Gooch had the biggest reason to celebrate.
The RangeGoats GC star shot an 8-under 62 Sunday at LIV Golf Jeddah to secure the Individual Champion crown. It’s the first full-season title Talor Gooch as ever won in his golf career, and it earns him an $18 million bonus.
“It’s awesome,” said Gooch, who won a league-best three times this season. “From January 1st until now, that’s what we’ve been working for. So to get here and be the champion, man, I’m proud. I’m honored. And I’m excited.
“It was a day that you dream of – for the score and the moment. It was a special, special day.”
It was a special day for many LIV golfers at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Smash GC captain Brooks Koepka celebrates winning the Individual Champion title of LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club (Photo by Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf)
Koepka, the Smash GC captain, successfully defended his Jeddah title and in similar fashion to last year – by winning an extended playoff. Last year, it was a three-hole playoff against Peter Uihlein; this time, it took him two holes to subdue Gooch, who had already guaranteed his season-long title no matter the playoff’s outcome.
Koepka forced the playoff with a birdie at the par-5 18th to close out his 2-under 68 in the final round, leaving him tied with Gooch at 14 under for the tournament. He then birdied the 18th twice in the playoff.
“It’s been great. It’s been fantastic,” said Koepka about his successful title defense. “It’s always a good feeling. Super proud of the way I played today.”
By winning the tournament, Koepka also moved into third place in the Individual standings, overtaking Bryson DeChambeau, who finished at 8 under after an even-par 70, leaving him 16th on the points leaderboard. DeChambeau needed to finish 13th or better to hold off Koepka.
“I really didn’t think I had a chance,” said Koepka, who earns a $4 million bonus for third. “I don’t know how many points Bryson had to have or to get, but I felt like I had to win, and I did my part. … Super fortunate to kind of squeak in there.”
Ripper GC Captain Cameron Smith, who entered the week atop the Individual points standings, finished at 6 under after his final-round 66. That left him 25th and with no points for the week. He finished with 170 points to Gooch’s 192.
Seeds for next week’s season-ending Team Championship in Miami were also finalized, with 4Aces GC, Crushers GC, Torque GC and RangeGoats GC securing byes for Friday’s Quarterfinals.
Fireballs Captain Sergio Garcia challenged for the individual title most of the day before finishing two strokes shy and in a three-way tie for third with Scott Vincent and Harold Varner III. Still, he found the top of the podium with his team, as Abraham Ancer (64), Carlos Ortiz (64) and Eugenio Chacarra (67) supplied a counting score of 15 under to finish at 34 under for the week. It’s their second win of the season and third overall.
The Fireballs were already eliminated from bye consideration, but with a second-place in Chicago and a win in Jeddah in their last two starts, they will enter the Team Championship with plenty of momentum.
“We know how much Miami means, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep that going and make it fun.”
The Iron Heads’ Vincent also had a special week, as he moved into the top-24 Lock Zone and secured his spot for next year’s LIV Golf League. Vincent followed his 62 on Saturday with a 66 on Sunday to finish at 12 under. After the tiebreakers, he claimed fourth in the points leaderboard, giving him enough points to move into 22nd in the season-long standings.
“It’s been incredible,” said Vincent. “I can’t tell you how many high fives I just received from so many different people.”
TEAM COUNTING SCORES
Here are the standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title. In addition, the season standings after Jeddah determine seeds for next week’s Team Championship in Miami.
1. FIREBALLS GC (-34): Abraham Ancer 64, Carlos Ortiz 64, Eugenio Chacarra 67 (Rd. 3 score: -15)
2. RANGEGOATS GC (-31): Talor Gooch 62, Harold Varner III 65, Thomas Pieters 67 (Rd. 3 score: -16)
3. CLEEKS GC (-29): Graeme McDowell 63, Bernd Wiesberger 63, Richard Bland 66 (Rd. 3 score: -18)
4. TORQUE GC (-28): Mito Pereira 66, David Puig 66, Joaquin Niemann 67 (Rd. 3 score: -11)
5. CRUSHERS GC (-28): Paul Casey 66, Charles Howell III 68, Bryson DeChambeau 70 (Rd. 3 score: -6)
6. 4ACES GC (-26): Peter Uihlein 64, Dustin Johnson 65, Patrick Reed 66 (Rd. 3 score: -15)
7. SMASH GC (-26): Matthew Wolff 67, Jason Kokrak 68, Brooks Koepka 68 (Rd. 3 score: -7)
8. IRON HEADS GC (-23): Kevin Na 63, Scott Vincent 66, Danny Lee 69 (Rd. 3 score: 12)
9. STINGER GC (-22): Charl Schwartzel 66, Dean Burmester 67, Branden Grace 67 (Rd. 3 score: -10)
10. HYFLYERS GC (-22): Cameron Tringale 66, Phil Mickelson 68, Brendan Steele 68 (Rd. 3 score: -8)
11. RIPPER GC (-21): Cameron Smith 66, Marc Leishman 68, Matt Jones 68 (Rd. 3 score: -8)
12. MAJESTICKS GC (-15): Lee Westwood 63, Henrik Stenson 66, Ian Poulter 68 (Rd. 3 score: -13)
TEAM SEEDS FINALIZED FOR MIAMI – 4Aces GC will begin the title defense of its Team Championship in Miami as the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive year.
The season-long team standings were finalized after LIV Golf Jeddah, with the 4Aces atop the list at 192 points. Crushers GC is second with 186 points, Torque GC third at 183 points and RangeGoats GC at 179 points.
Those four teams will receive byes in Friday’s Quarterfinals, with the higher seeds – starting with the 4Aces – selecting their opponent for Saturday’s Semifinals.
The RangeGoats started the week in Jeddah ranked fifth in the standings but jumped past Stinger GC into fourth place. The RangeGoats finished second on the tournament leaderboard behind the winning Fireballs GC.
“It’s awesome,” said RangeGoats Captain Bubba Watson. “Just an extra day for us to practice but also not have that mental grueling test the day before, right? That means whatever team we’re playing the next day has already had to go through stress and mental grind. So it’s good for us.”
Stinger GC fell to fifth and will get the first pick of opponents during Wednesday’s selection process at Trump National Doral.
Final order of seeds for the Team Championship:
1. 4ACES GC
2. CRUSHERS GC
3. TORQUE GC
4. RANGEGOATS GC
5. STINGER GC
6. FIREBALLS GC
7. RIPPER GC
8. SMASH GC
9. HYFLYERS GC
10. CLEEKS GC
11. MAJESTICKS GC
12. IRON HEADS GC
BROOKS WINS FOR FIRST TIME AS A FATHER: Brooks Koepka and his wife Jena Sims recently welcomed the birth of their first child, Crew. Sunday’s win was Koepka’s first as a dad.
“I’m sure Jena and Crew are watching,” Koepka said. “He won’t remember that one, but at least I’ve got something to say, that I did win while he was here.”
GOOCH OVERCOMES CASE OF NERVES: Having given himself an opportunity to win the Individual Champion title, Talor Gooch said he was “as nervous as could be” leading up to Sunday’s final round.
But his opening tee shot found the fairway, his approach found the green, and he drained a 30-foot birdie putt to quickly settle in.
“It was a very, very stressful day, very exciting day,” said Gooch, who needed just 22 putts Sunday in a bogey-free round highlighted by a string of three consecutive birdies down the stretch. “My caddie (Malcolm Baker) and I just did a great job of staying in the moment and just executing.”
LOCKED IN FOR 2024 – The top 24 players in the final Individual standings secured their spots for next year’s 2024 LIV Golf League. Here are the top 24:
1. Talor Gooch, RangeGoats GC
2. Cameron Smith, Ripper GC Captain
3. Brooks Koepka, Smash GC Captain
4. Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC Captain
5. Dustin Johnson, 4Aces GC Captain
6. Patrick Reed, 4Aces GC
7. Harold Varner III, RangeGoats GC
8. Mito Pereira, Torque GC
9. Branden Grace, Stinger GC
10. Charles Howell III, Crushers GC
11. Sebastián Muñoz, Torque GC
12. Peter Uihlein, 4Aces GC
13. Anirban Lahiri, Crushers GC
14. Dean Burmester, Stinger GC
15. Carlos Ortiz, Fireballs GC
16. Cameron Tringale, HyFlyers GC
17. Sergio Garcia, Fireballs GC Captain
18. Marc Leishman, Ripper GC
19. Brendan Steele, HyFlyers GC
20. Richard Bland, Cleeks GC
21. Joaquin Niemann, Torque GC Captain
22. Scott Vincent, Iron Heads GC
23. Jason Kokrak, Smash GC
24. Louis Oosthuizen, Stinger GC Captain
Players who finished 25th through 44th in points are in the Open Zone and eligible to re-sign with their teams or any other team if interested.
WIESBERGER AVOIDS RELEGATION: Cleeks GC’s Bernd Wiesberger started the week on the Open Zone bubble at 44 and was in danger of falling into the Drop Zone and facing relegation.
With the pressure on, Wiesberger shot a 7-under 63 to finish 11th on the point leaderboard at 8 under. It’s his best result of the season and allowed him to stay in the Open Zone, where he can become a free agent and re-sign with Martin Kaymer’s Cleeks or any other interested team.
“Hopefully my performance today, I gave a little bit of push for (Kaymer) or the league for possibly having an invite next year,” Wiesberger. “I didn’t do enough on my own to secure next year but I still think I can play plenty of rounds like I did today.”
The four full-time non-captains who finished in the Drop Zone are Ripper GC’s Jediah Morgan, HyFlyers GC’s James Piot, Smash GC’s Chase Koepka and Iron Heads GC’s Sihwan Kim. They will have the opportunity to play their way back into the League as the Promotions tournament later this year.
RD. 3 STAT LEADERS
Driving distance – Mito Pereira, 336.1-yard average
Longest drive – Sihwan Kim, 388.3 yards (9th hole)
Driving accuracy – Henrik Stenson, 100% (14 of 14)
Greens in regulation – Brooks Koepka, Scott Vincent, Charles Howell III, Charl Schwartzel, Paul Casey, Cameron Smith, Matt Jones, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson, Sam Horsfield, 89% (16 of 18)
Scrambling – Talor Gooch (7 of 7), Abraham Ancer (5 of 5), Harold Varner III (4 of 4), Bernd Wiesberger (4 of 4), Eugenio Chacarra (4 of 4), Lee Westwood (3 of 3), Graeme McDowell (3 of 3), Kevin Na (3 of 3), Henrik Stenson (2 of 2), Charl Schwartzel (2 of 2), Paul Casey (2 of 2), 100%
Fewest putts – Talor Gooch, 22 putts
Most birdies – Talor Gooch, Graeme McDowell, 8
Bogey-free rounds – Talor Gooch 62, Kevin Na 63, Lee Westwood 63, Bernd Wiesberger 63, Abraham Ancer 64, Harold Varner III 65, Charl Schwartzel 66, Henrik Stenson 66, Eugenio Chacarra 67