JEDDAH RD. 2: SMITH LOSES GROUND; RIPPERS FALL BACK INTO 7TH SPOT
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Much of the reward enjoyed by Ripper GC after the opening round of LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN was replaced by frustration on Saturday as they collectively lost ground on day two at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Marc Leishman, who held a one-stroke lead overnight, tumbled back down the individual leaderboard into a tie for 21st after struggling to a 2-over 72. Matt Jones had the best day for the Rippers, firing a 67 to share 16th place at 4 under, while Jediah Morgan was three strokes back in 31st after carding a 68.
Captain Cameron Smith, who still occupied the driver's seat overnight in pursuit of the season-long individual title, also slid back as he carded a 2-under 68 on a day with less windy conditions and some more accessible hole locations.
As a team, the all-Australian combination also lost ground. After sharing the first-round lead in Jeddah with Crushers GC at 6 under - boosting their hopes for next week's Team Championship in Miami - the Rippers had fallen into seventh place by the time Day 2 was over.
Perhaps the biggest frustration will have been felt by Smith, who has won two of his last four LIV Golf starts and produced six top-10s this season along with eight top-24 points finishes. Despite opening with an even-par 70 at Royal Greens, he was still very much in the hunt for the season-long individual title.
On Saturday, however, a sizzling start and an eventual score of 68 were not enough to push him further forward. In hot and windy conditions, Smith began well with birdies at the 11th (his fifth hole of the day), the 12th, the 16th and then at the tricky par-3 third to get to 4-under for the round.
However, he bogeyed the fourth and fifth to drop back to 2-under and behind both Talor Gooch and Bryson DeChambeau in points in the chase for the Individual Title. Smith then parred his final hole, the sixth, to end the round two points behind Gooch in the race for the season-long crown and the $18 million bonus.
Heading into Sunday’s final round, Gooch leads the projections in the quest to become Individual Champion while DeChambeau must finish in the top three to have any shot at finishing No. 1.
"The mindset every week is to come here to win," said Smith, who will look to end his regular season in the best possible way in Jeddah on Sunday. "For sure there's a little bit more up for grabs this week. You have to acknowledge that and really get on your toes and just try and go out there and win the tournament. It's the same as every other week. But this week, yeah, more stuff to play for."
Morgan, who came into this week needing a high finish at Royal Greens to avoid relegation from the League, mixed six birdies with four bogeys on his way to a 68 on Saturday. He arrived in Jeddah ranked 46th in individual points and needs to finish 44th or better after the regular-season finale if he is to retain his spot for next year. After Day 2, Morgan was precariously positioned in the 47th spot.