Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Mar 04 2024
- 4 MIN
Smith leads Ripper in Jeddah

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – For the most part, Ripper GC failed to spark collectively at LIV Golf Jeddah with their only productive round on Saturday sandwiched by a stuttering start on Friday and a low-key finish on Sunday.

The biggest surprise for the all-Australian Rippers was the disappointing form produced by their usually reliable captain Cameron Smith at Royal Greens Golf & Country where the team ended up in ninth place overall at 18-under - a distant 20 strokes behind the triumphant Crushers GC.

Smith, who tied for eighth at the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico and then shared 15th place at LIV Golf Las Vegas, struggled with his all-round game in Jeddah. He carded scores of 1-under 69, 70 and 70 in windy conditions to finish joint 41st at 1-under 209.

While Smith ended the tournament ranked first for putting (with a total of 78), he ranked 52nd for greens in regulation (with just 28) and 50th in driving distance (with an average drive of 296.7 yards). This from one of the best players in LIV Golf who won twice last year in 13 starts while notching up four other top-10s to wind up second in the overall standings.

Rippers fans will certainly expect Smith to bounce back quickly from what they will regard as a mere blip in form as he now prepares for this week's LIV Golf Hong Kong at Hong Kong Golf Club.

The standout player for the Rippers at Royal Greens was the 43-year-old Matt Jones, who ended his week in 14th place at 8-under 202 after shooting scores of 70, 66 and 66. He tied for seventh for total birdies (with 15) and was ranked joint ninth in putting (with a total of 83).

Next best for the Rippers in Saudi Arabia was three-times DP World Tour winner Lucas Herbert, who joined the team during the off-season to fill the roster spot left open after the relegation of Jediah Morgan.

Herbert began his week in Jeddah well, returning scores of 65 and 66 before struggling to a 3-over 73 in Sunday's windy final round to finish in a tie for 22nd place at 6-under 204. Impressively, he ended the tournament tied for second for total birdies (with 17).

Like Smith, Marc Leishman also failed to shine in Jeddah - apart from the second round. Scores of 72, 66 and 71 left him level with Smith at 1-under, in a share of 41st place. Leishman ended his week tied for 47th in fairways hits (with 16) and ranked joint 44th for greens in regulation (with 34).

Team success in LIV Golf depends a great deal on at least three of the four players playing well in the first two rounds, before all four then dovetail on the final day.

In Jeddah, the Rippers achieved cohesion only on day two when Jones, Leishman and Herbert all fired 66s to lift the team from 11th place overnight into a share of sixth spot. Unfortunately, this momentum was not maintained in Sunday's final round as the all-Australian combination slipped back into ninth.

On paper, however, the Rippers ooze quality and Smith and company will be expected to bounce back to their customary form sooner rather than later.

As they head to Hong Kong for this week's event, they can also reflect on a largely successful 2023 season. With Smith leading superbly by example, they produced a team win in Bedminster, a runner-up spot in London and five other top-seven finishes in 13 regular-season starts.