TEN OBSERVATIONS FROM LIV GOLF’S EPIC FIRST TEAM PLAYOFF

ADELAIDE, South Australia – Ten observations from LIV Golf’s first-ever team playoff, with the home Australian favorite Ripper GC winning in epic fashion on the second playoff hole against the South African Stinger GC in front of a packed and vocal fanbase at The Grange Golf Club.

 

CAPTAINS’ CHOICES. The captains of the playoff teams are tasked with choosing the two players who’ll participate for their squads. In Adelaide, that meant Ripper GC Captain Cameron Smith selected himself and Marc Leishman, while Stinger GC Captain Louis Oosthuizen went with himself and Dean Burmester.

 

The choices offer an intriguing blueprint on how decisions may be made in future team playoffs. It’s likely the captain will almost always choose himself to participate, a decision that shows leadership while also accepting half the burden/opportunity of getting the job done.

 

For the South Africans, Burmester was an obvious choice given that he’s been the team’s best player this season, was coming off the win at LIV Golf Miami and finished at 16 under, tied with Charl Schwartzel for third place. He was also chomping at the bit to get back on the course after failing to convert a birdie putt on the last hole of regulation that, as it turned out (although he didn’t know it at the time), would’ve broken the tie.

 

Even so, Schwartzel had the team’s lowest round on Sunday, a bogey-free 8-under 64 and had birdied four of his last seven holes. He could very easily had earned the call, too.

 

Oosthuizen, meanwhile, has been a model of consistency this season and had the Stingers’ best performance of the week, solo second at 17 under (it’s his best result in LIV Golf). He also ranks second in the league in birdies made this year.

 

And the Rippers? Well, it seems foolish to even consider that Smith would’ve sat himself in the playoff. He’s one of the world’s best players, and arguably golf’s best putter. Like Burmester, he had an opportunity to win the team title in regulation but his bogey on 18 opened the door. He wanted to get back out there.

 

If you just take Sunday into account, Smith’s 2-under 70 was the highest score of any Ripper; Leishman and Lucas Herbert shot 65s, and Matt Jones shot 68. All four finished within a stroke of each other on the final leaderboard, so Smith certainly had to consider each player.

 

“Not an easy decision,” Smith admitted. “I had just made bogey on 18, and we kind of all talked about it. We had a good chat. Obviously Leish and Herby shot a really good score today, so they were kind of on fire.

 

“In the end, it was the right decision. Do I think it would have mattered? Probably not. I think any one of these guys could have stepped up there and got the job done.”

 

NO ADVICE AMONG TEAMMATES. Even though it’s a team playoff, individual stroke-play rules still apply, which includes Rule 10.2 prohibiting the exchange of advice among players. In other words, players are not allowed to converse about things such as shot strategy, club selection or help with reading putts.

 

Consider the last point and how it might have impacted the outcome on the first playoff hole.

 

The Stinger duo of Oosthuizen and Burmester hit near-identical tee shots and approaches, leaving them with makeable birdie putts from inside 10 feet and from a similar, albeit difficult spot between the pin and backside bunker.

 

Burmester went first, his putt running past the left side.

 

Oosthuizen followed with a slightly shorter putt. Having seen Burmester’s putt, he didn’t think the ball would turn as much as he first thought. He aimed left-edge … and the ball ran past the right side.

 

It wasn’t until afterwards that Burmester revealed to his captain that he simply pulled the putt. Had Oosthuizen had that knowledge earlier, “I probably would’ve gone a little bit more left,” he said. 

 

Despite the short distance, the putts were not easy ones, with an awkward double-breaker line impacted by the proximity of the bunker. Leishman had a similar birdie putt in regulation that he missed. 

 

“That was a tricky hole location, actually,” Leishman said. “I don’t think there would have been too many putts made around that hole.”

 

Interestingly enough, the Stingers continued to hit similar shots in the second playoff holes, with both of their approaches rolling past the pin and dropping into the bunker. In fact, their golf balls ended up right next to each other, forcing Burmester to mark his ball a club-length away while Oosthuizen blasted out.

 

SPEAKING OF BURMESTER IN THE BUNKER. Give him credit for an all-world bogey in the face of a partisan Aussie gallery. His first attempt didn’t clear the lip, so he needed another attempt to get out, leaving him with a 10-footer for bogey. When he rolled in the putt, he turned to the crowd and cupped his ear to the silence.

 

 

SPEAKING OF PARTISAN CROWDS. No surprise that the sea of fans surrounding the 18th green were vocal in their support for the Rippers. Perhaps some carried it too far, but when Oosthuizen was asked about it, he made a point of saying it had no impact on the outcome.

 

Individual Adelaide winner Brendan Steele, an impartial observer, watched the playoff from just off the green. “It definitely turned into a true home game there,” the HyFlyers GC star said. “But I think it’s all in good fun.”

 

Still, the Aussies know that if the situations are ever reversed – for instance, if they ever find themselves in a playoff against the Stingers at any future South African-based LIV Golf event – they will expect the same partisan support for the locals.

 

“The first time we go to South Africa and if we’re in a playoff with the Stingers, I think we’ll embrace that they can do whatever the hell they want to us,” Leishman said.

 

CHANCE OF WINNING. Two birdie putts awaiting their opponents. A teammate in the bunker. And his approach shot coming up short and rolling down the front ledge. 

 

When Leishman walked toward the 18th green, he didn’t like the Rippers’ odds of winning. He called it 25% – and admits that’s being very optimistic. His captain thought the percentage was even lower.

 

But Smith did his short-game magic, and Leishman was clutch on his par putt, and that allowed them to survive.

 

“You’ve got to just embrace that stuff, I think,” Leishman said. “Embrace the challenge and hope that you can come out of it and give yourself another chance, which we did, and it turned out pretty good for us.”

 

CLEARING THE FAIRWAY. It’s a great scene, fans filling the 18th fairway after the last group on the hole finishes their round. That’s what happened when Steele walked toward the green, about the wrap up his first LIV Golf individual title.

 

Of course, the team playoff meant fans had to then be cleared from the fairway. 

 

But on the first playoff hole, fans again filled the fairway – and again had to clear it when a second playoff hole became necessary.

 

Credit to the marshals, volunteers and law enforcement teams for clearing the hole in a timely manner with little time disruption.

 

PUT THAT PIN FLAG BACK. Per tradition, the caddie for the winning individual player claims the pin flag on the 18th hole. So, no surprise that Christian Donald pulled the flag from the flagstick after his man Steele dropped the final putt. Once he found out a playoff was needed, he quickly re-attached it.

 

WATERING HOLE STARS. Last year, just one player (4Aces GC’s Pat Perez) birdied the par-3 12th Watering Hole in each round. This year, Rippers Leishman and Jones did the trick. “I enjoyed the tee being moved up just a little bit every time,” Jones said. “I think I hit wedge three times, maybe hit 9-iron one time.”

 

TWIN 53 UNDERS. Until Adelaide, no team had ever finished a LIV Golf tournament with a counting score at 50 under or better. Torque GC had set the LIV record-low last year in Greenbrier, winning at 49 under (the same tournament that Crushers GC Bryson DeChambeau set the individual low at 23 under, and the lowest round with a 58).

 

By shooting a counting score of 53 under, the Rippers and Stingers now share the new record.

 

In addition, the Stingers also set a new single-round counting record with a 24-under total on Sunday to force the playoff. Schwartzel was 8 under, Oosthuizen at 7 under, Burmester at 5 under and Branden Grace at 4 under.

 

The previous record had also been set in Adelaide, in 2023 when RangeGoats GC shot 23 under in the second round. Note that the Goats did it with three counting scores, not four.

 

TOP THREE. With Oosthuizen finishing solo second and Schwartzel and Burmester tied for third, the Stingers become the first time since the inaugural 2022 London event to place three players inside the top 3 on the individual leaderboard.

 

The team that did it that week in London? The Stingers, with Schwartzel winning the title, Hennie du Plessis finishing second and Grace third – the only time a single team has swept the podium.

 

 

Gideon Canice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *