SMITH EYES TITLE IN JEDDAH, DREAMS OF RIPPER DOUBLE
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Rippers captain Cameron Smith certainly has a lot on his mind as he and his all-Australian team head into LIV Golf Jeddah this week at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Although Smith recorded his worst finish of the season in his most recent start, placing 40th in Chicago two weeks ago, he still leads the season-long individual points race and would wrap up the prized title with a win in Jeddah, among other permutations.
"It's definitely in the back of the mind for sure," Smith said, about securing the Individual Champion crown. "It's hard not to really think about. It's prettying satisfying winning a tournament, but I think a year-long (title), it means you've done a lot of things right throughout the year and obviously had a good season, so there definitely will be a different sense there."
The Individual Champion title will be awarded to the top-ranked player after the completion of LIV Golf Jeddah. Apart from the pace-setting Smith, only No. 2 Talor Gooch and No. 3 Bryson DeChambeau have a mathematical chance of winning the crown.
Smith, who has won two of his last four LIV Golf starts, has produced six top-10s this season along with eight top-24 points finishes. He leads the league in putting average, with 1.51, and last year in Jeddah he placed 22nd in points at 5 under. Smith was coming off an individual victory at Bedminster and had counting scores during the first two days in Chicago, but he finished with a 2-over 73 in the final round.
"But you know what, it would be nice to get the Ripper team up there in Miami next week as well," smiled Smith, referring to next week's Team Championship. "Getting a double would be very nice."
The Rippers finally broke through with their first team victory in Bedminster in August, and they sit seventh in the standings going into Jeddah, having climbed one spot in Chicago.
Overall, Ripper GC put itself in position for a nice finish at Rich Harvest Farms and closed just two shots outside of the top five. Marc Leishman led the way - finishing second - just one shot behind winner Bryson DeChambeau, and he will be looking to replicate that form in Jeddah after producing two podium finishes in his last four starts. Leishman finished second on the week in greens in regulation (79.63%).
His young teammate Jediah Morgan also had a week to remember in Chicago after firing a 5-under 66 in the opening round before losing ground, but he needs a high finish in Jeddah to avoid relegation. He is currently 46th in individual points and needs to finish 44th or better after the final event of the 2023 regular season if he is to retain his spot for next year.
"I just look at it in the face really," said Morgan. "I know where I am and everyone keeps reminding me where I am, so it's pretty hard to get away from it. There's no point in me trying to act like it's not there in my head. It's obviously there. But I know if I play well enough, put myself in the position ... that's really all you can do. What's going to happen is going to happen."