Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes
Jan 31 2024
- 4 min
Smith Herbert Mayakoba

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – With one change in its four-man lineup since a very productive 2023 campaign, Ripper GC is targeting even greater success for this year as the all-Australian combination prepares for the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camaleon.

Three-time DP World Tour winner Lucas Herbert has filled the roster spot left open after the relegation of Jediah Morgan and he will link up with his compatriots Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones in a high-quality quartet.

Boosted by the addition of Herbert, the Rippers can also reflect on good memories of last year's LIV Golf Mayakoba where captain Smith celebrated a sixth-place finish on the individual leaderboard and the team enjoyed a stellar performance on the greens before ending the week collectively in the fifth spot.

Smith tied for fewest putts after the three rounds at Mayakoba, with 77, while the other three team members each ranked inside the top 20 in that category.

"It's a really cool aspect of this Tour that, whether you're playing really well or not so great the first two days, there's so much to play for both individually and on the team side of it," said Leishman. "I have great memories of Mayakoba last year, even though I didn't finish the final round the way I really wanted to.

"Plus, we're all really good mates on this team ... all the camaraderie off the course and having guys that you want to play well right there with you. It's a great vibe, having those dinners and breakfasts together, having someone built in to chill with. It's been really fun."

Overall, Ripper GC can look back on a largely successful 2023 season. With Smith leading superbly by example, the Rippers produced a team win in Bedminster, a runner-up spot in London and five other top-seven finishes in 13 regular-season starts. They had high hopes going into the season-ending Team Championship in Miami but had to settle for ninth place in the team standings after being upset 2-1 by the 10th-seeded Cleeks in the match play quarterfinal round.

On the individual front, Smith won twice during the year in 13 LIV Golf starts while notching four other top-10s to wind up second in the overall standings. Leishman placed 18th after ending the year with three top-eight finishes in his last five starts.

"Team-wise, it was fun," Morgan said of Ripper GC's 2023 season. "It was good to see that we can win as a team and finish high up there as a team. Cam had an amazing year so if he went without a team win, it would have been a bit harsh. Leish finished the year strong as well, and Jonesy held his head high as well but for us not to have won this year would have been tough to swallow. I would give us seven out of 10 for the season."

Team captain Smith, who won the 2022 Open Championship, will have an extra spring in his step for this season after marrying his girlfriend, Shanel Naoum, on December 30 last year in Brisbane at the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

Jones, the longest-tenured player on Ripper GC, returns for his third season in LIV Golf after signing a new contract with the team. He had entered the offseason as a free agent after finishing 37th in points in the 2023 individual standings, placing him in the Open Zone. However, the Rippers offered him a contract to rejoin the team for another year.

"Cam's always been good to me," said the 43-year-old Jones. "He always said during the year, 'Matt, we'll work on this for next year.' So I've always kind of known I'd return."

Jones' best finish in 2023 was a seventh in Tucson, his only top-10 of the season. He finished in the points (top 24) in four of 13 regular-season tournaments.

"I expect a lot more from myself to be able to help the team out more than I did last year," Jones said. "Even the last two years, I haven't played to the level I know I can or expect myself to. I've been putting in some work here in the offseason, which has been great."

The first real test of Jones' expectations comes this week at El Camaleon where the Rippers will also be hoping that their strong team chemistry can give them an added boost out on the course.