RIPPERS FINISH NINTH IN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP; MORGAN RATES SEASON 7/10
MIAMI – Jediah Morgan gave the Rippers a rating of seven out of 10 for the year after they finished up in ninth place on Sunday at the LIV Golf Team Championship, the final tournament of the season.
It proved to be a disappointing week for seventh-seeded Ripper GC at Trump National Doral after they were upset 2-1 by the 10th-seeded Cleeks in Friday's match-play quarterfinal round. As a result, they were competing on Day 3 in Tier 3, for 9th-12th place.
Matt Jones led the way for the all-Australia combination, firing a superb 6-under 66 in the Final stroke-play round, while Morgan carded a 71. Both captain Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman signed off with 73s to give the Rippers a 5-under total, five strokes better than Smash GC, who had to settle for the 10th spot.
"It's nice to finish under par, especially on a tough track like that," Morgan said, after mixing an eagle at the par-5 eighth with three birdies, two bogeys and a double at the par-5 10th. "Obviously it didn't go the way we wanted it to go this week, but finishing up ninth is better than 12th so....."
The Rippers were eliminated from the quarterfinal round on Friday after Smith, the 2022 Open champion, had to fight hard to scrape past Martin Kaymer after a closely contested 19 holes on the fabled Blue Monster layout.
Marc Leishman, who has been one of the most successful players in the LIV Golf League this year, was totally outplayed by Englishman Richard Bland in a 4 & 3 defeat while Jones and Morgan fought tooth and nail against Graeme McDowell and Bernd Wiesberger in a fluctuating foursomes battle that finally went the way of the Cleeks after 21 holes.
"It was disappointing," Morgan said of that unexpected quarterfinal exit. "It was rough. But we went down fighting. We had a great match with G-Mac and Bernd. It was an unbelievable foursomes match. It was back and forth all day, and no one ever got more than 1 up. But Blandy outplayed Leish by the looks of it."
Jones was the best player for the Rippers on the final day at Doral, mixing three birdies with a lone bogey to get to 2 under after 11 holes. He then eagled the par-5 eighth before making further birdies at the 10th and 12th.
Morgan birdied his fourth hole, the par-4 16th, but he then bogeyed the fourth and sixth to slide back to 1-over for his round. An eagle at the par-5 eighth got him back to 1-under before he doubled the 10th and then birdied 11 and 12.
Smith made a solid start for the Rippers with birdies at the 12th, his opening hole, and the 16th to sit at 2-under as he reached the turn.
However, he slipped back with a bogey at the first and ran up a double at the par-4 second before rebounding with birdies at the third, fifth and eighth. Once again, though, he ran into trouble with a bogey on nine and a double on 10 as he finished at 1-over.
Leishman, who ended the regular season with two podium finishes in his last five starts, also struggled on the final day at Doral. He made a stumbling start with three bogeys and a lone birdie in his first 11 holes, before mixing two birdies with a bogey over his final six holes.
Overall, though, the Rippers can look back on a largely successful season. With captain 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 also had lofty expectations for the final tournament of the league's first full season, having placed second in the 2022 Team Championship, just one stroke behind 4Aces GC, when they were known as Punch GC. Smith was their standout player, and he fired a sizzling 7-under 65 on the final day when his teammate Jones returned the fourth lowest score, carding a 70.
Smith, who has won twice this season in 13 LIV Golf starts while notching four other top-10 finishes, fell short in pursuit of the season-long Individual Title, placing second behind Talor Gooch.
"Team-wise, it's been fun," Morgan said of Ripper GC's 2023 season. "We've probably got the most chemistry of any team out here, which is goes a long way in team sports even though we are all still individuals. From a Ripper standpoint, it was good to see that we can win as a team and finish high up there as a team. I was happy to say I was part of our first win.
"And Cam's had an amazing year so if he went without a team win, I reckon it would have been a bit harsh. Leish has finished the year strong as well, and Jonesy has 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 this season."