FIFTH-SEEDED RIPPERS STUNNED BY 1O SEED CLEEKS 2-1
MIAMI – It was a bruising and emotion-sapping day for Ripper GC at the LIV Golf Team Championship on Friday as the seven seed was upset 2-1 by the 10th-seeded Cleeks in a match-up of high drama in the quarterfinal round at Trump National Doral.
Although Rippers captain Cameron Smith emerged triumphant, the 2022 Open champion had to fight hard before scraping past Martin Kaymer after a closely contested 19 holes on the fabled Blue Monster layout. But that was the only win that the all-Australian combination were able to celebrate on the day.
Marc Leishman, who has been one of the most successful players in the LIV Golf League this year, was hit by the proverbial buzzsaw as he was totally outplayed by Englishman Richard Bland in a 4 & 3 defeat. Bland birdied five of the first six holes and Leishman never got closer than 2 down for the rest of the encounter before losing the match after both players parred the par-4 seventh.
That left the tie hanging 1-1 in the balance as Australian duo Matt Jones and Jediah Morgan fought tooth and nail against Graeme McDowell and Bernd Wiesberger in a fluctuating foursomes battle of high quality.
Neither team ever established a lead of more than 1 up but the Rippers appeared to have the match within their grasp as they headed down the final hole, the par-4 11th, with a 1up advantage.
However, Ulsterman McDowell then hit a brilliant approach to six feet before Wiesberger sank the birdie putt to take the match into extra holes.
The drama heightened as Jones holed out for birdie from a greenside bunker at the par-five 12th just as the Cleeks thought they had the match in the bag. Wiesberger had to make a 15-footer there to keep the match alive, and he was required to sink another from a similar length at the par-3 13th before McDowell sealed victory for the all-European team by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th green.
"You think you're in the driving seat and G-Mac hits an unbelievable shot into 11 and fair play to Bernd to step up and hole the putt," said Bland, who watched the final four holes of the foursomes match after wrapping up his win over Leishman.
"And then you think down 12 that Jed has hit it so far left and you think, 'Well, we're really in the driver's seat.' And then Jonesy goes and holes it from the bunker. And Bernd has got to hole from 15 feet to keep it going, and then he does it again on the par-3. But there's no one I would rather have in golf over about a 20-footer than G-Mac to win a game. He's just one of the best putters I have ever seen."
Both Jones and Morgan were emotionally drained and bitterly disappointed after their foursomes defeat, and will now have Saturday to recharge their batteries before all the players regroup on Sunday for the final round of stroke play with $50 million on the line.