SMITH FINISHES SECOND IN RACE FOR INDIVIDUAL TITLE; RIPPERS FALL BACK INTO 11TH SPOT
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – A week that began superbly well for Ripper GC at LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN ended with collective disappointment as the all-Australian team finished 11th out of 12 on the team leaderboard after the regular-season finale.
Captain Cameron Smith, who had arrived in Jeddah occupying the No. 1 spot in pursuit of the season-long individual title, had to settle for second place behind Talor Gooch after closing with a 4-under 66 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. That gave Smith a 6-under total of 204 and 25th position on the individual leaderboard.
Next best for the Rippers was Matt Jones, who placed 27th at 6-under after carding a 2-under 68 that included five birdies, one bogey and a double at the par-4 second.
Marc Leishman, who started the week in red-hot form as he seized a one-stroke lead with an opening 65, closed with a 68 for a 5-under total of 205 and 32nd place. The early signs were auspicious for him on a breezy Sunday as he pocketed four birdies in his first 11 holes but he lost momentum with a bogey at the 11th and a double at the par-4 13th.
For Jediah Morgan, the week was one of bitter disappointment with his only bright spot a 68 on day two. He wound up in 47th spot at 5-over after struggling to a 76 that included five bogeys and a double.
All of this after the Rippers had ended the opening round in a two-way tie at the top of the team leaderboard with Crushers GC, boosting their hopes for next week's Team Championship in Miami.
"Next week is a huge week for the team," said Leishman. "We got close there last year finishing second, and I know all the boys want to try and go one better than that. Hopefully next week we can try and get a win on the board."
Smith will certainly look back on his week in Jeddah as a missed opportunity. Ahead of round one, he was in the driver's seat in pursuit of the coveted Individual Champion title with Gooch and Bryson DeChambeau his only two challengers.
Through the first 12 events of 2023, Smith led the standings with 170 points, having won twice this season. Gooch, the RangeGoats GC star with three wins in 2023, was his closest pursuer with 162 points. DeChambeau, the Crushers GC captain, had won two of the previous three LIV Golf tournaments after a slow start to vault into third place with 146 points.
However, by the time the week was over in Jeddah, Gooch had clinched the season-long title and the bonus of $18 million after closing with a sizzling 62 at Royal Greens and losing out to Brooks Koepka in a playoff for the LIV Golf Jeddah individual crown. Smith had to settle for second place in the overall points standings with Koepka finishing third and DeChambeau fourth.
Smith, who has won two of his last five LIV Golf starts and produced six top-10s this season, was let down by his usually reliable putter during the final round in Jeddah and he will certainly be looking to rebound as he and his teammates head to Miami for next week's Team Championship.