MARANA, Ariz. – Seeking his first professional win in nearly eight years, Danny Lee had a makeable birdie attempt on the second hole of Sunday’s playoff at LIV Golf Tucson.
When he missed the putt, he muttered to himself, “What have you done, you idiot.” Lee didn’t dwell on the missed opportunity, though. With a chance to win the individual title on the third playoff hole, the Iron Heads GC member rolled in the birdie putt at The Gallery Golf Club to claim the individual title in just his second start since joining the LIV Golf League.
The South Korean-born Lee, who represents New Zealand, defeated Carlos Ortiz (Fireballs GC), Brendan Steele (HyFlyers GC), and Louis Oosthuizen (Stinger GC) in the second playoff in LIV Golf history. The last time Lee won, in 2015, he also won in a four-man playoff.
“Maybe it was a coincidence, I don’t know,” the 32-year-old Lee said. “But it feels pretty amazing right now.”
In the team competition, Fireballs GC, captained by Sergio Garcia, won by four strokes over 4Aces GC, with Lee’s Iron Heads GC claiming third for the team’s first-ever podium finish. The Fireballs become just the second team to claim multiple titles, having won last year at the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok.
The Fireballs were fueled by Ortiz’s 6-under 65, the best round of the day and an impressive one, given the challenging conditions for the majority of the final round due to wind gusts above 20 mph. At one point, the Fireballs led by 12 strokes before the 4Aces rallied late to close the gap.
Ortiz’s low round put him in the playoff, but he was eliminated with a bogey on the first extra hole.
“Obviously, super-excited about getting another team wins after last year in Bangkok, and super-proud of all of them,” Garcia said. “Especially Carlos, the way he played today. Shame he couldn’t get the individual win. But what a great effort.”
Besides Ortiz’s round, the other two Fireballs counting scores belonged to Abraham Ancer (1-over 72) and Sergio Garcia (2-over 73).
“We felt like we didn’t play very well at all,” Ancer said, “but Carlos bailed us out today. We did a really good job to play good at the right times as a team, and that’s what got us the trophy.”
Said Ortiz, who finished second last year in his LIV Golf debut in Portland: “I think I did a good job of taking advantage of the easy holes, and I just tried to hold on to the hard holes. I think days like this are easy to move up the leaderboard if you shoot low, and I just did a good job today.”
Fireballs GC (L-R; Carlos Ortiz, Abraham Ancer, Sergio Garcia, and Eugenio Chacarra) raise the team championship trophy at LIV Golf Tucson (Photo by Sam Greenwood/LIV Golf)
While the Spanish-speaking Fireballs controlled the team leaderboard down the stretch, multiple players had a chance to seize control of the individual leaderboard.
Second-round leader Marc Leishman opened the door with bogeys in two of his first three holes. Charles Howell III, the individual winner in the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba, opened with an eagle and was 4 under through his first six holes. At one point, he held a two-shot lead but a triple bogey at the par-3 eighth brought him back to the pack.
Ortiz was making his run with five birdies in his first nine holes before suffering a double bogey at the 10th.
Eventually, Oosthuizen – captain of the all-South African Stinger GC – became the front-runner. But he suffered three bogeys in a four-hole stretch late in the round. When he bogeyed the par-3 16th, there was a four-way tie for the lead.
Lee, Steele, and Ortiz each finished at 9 under, while Oosthuizen, playing in the lead group, was 8 under after a bogey at the par-5 17th. But he knocked his approach shot close into 18 and made the birdie putt to join the playoff.
From there, it took three more trips through the 18th hole for Lee to post the only birdie of the playoff – and make his long-awaited return to the winner’s circle.
“I haven’t won since 2015. I just felt like winning is just not my thing, but today just changed that,” Lee said. “It’s just good to see I’m capable of playing some good golf again.”
TEAM COUNTING SCORES
Here are the standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Tucson. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds win the team title.
1. FIREBALLS GC (-25): Carlos Ortiz 65, Abraham Ancer 72, Sergio Garcia 73 (Rd. 3 total: -3)
2. 4ACES GC (-21): Patrick Reed 66, Dustin Johnson 68, Peter Uihlein 68 (Rd. 3 total: -11)
3. IRON HEADS GC (-19): Scott Vincent 69, Danny Lee 69, Kevin Na 71 (Rd. 3 total: -4)
4. STINGER GC (-16): Louis Oosthuizen 70, Branden Grace 70, Charl Schwartzel 72. (Rd. 3 total: -1)
5. RIPPER GC (-16): Matt Jones 69, Cameron Smith 70, Jediah Morgan 75 (Rd. 3 total: +1)
6. HYFLYERS GC (-15): Brendan Steele 70, Cameron Tringale 74, Phil Mickelson 75 (Rd. 3 total: +6)
7. TORQUE GC (-14): Mito Pereira 67, David Puig 71, Joaquin Niemann 73 (Rd. 3 total: -2)
8. RANGEGOATS GC (-12): Talor Gooch 69, Harold Varner III 71, Bubba Watson 73 (Rd. 3 total: E)
9. CRUSHERS GC (-12): Paul Casey 70, Charles Howell III 71, Bryson DeChambeau 73 (Rd. 3 total: +1)
10. SMASH GC (-8): Matthew Wolff 72, Brooks Koepka 73, Jason Kokrak 73 (Rd. 3 total: +5)
11. CLEEKS GC (-5): Richard Bland 68, Graeme McDowell 72, Bernd Wiesberger 72 (Rd. 3 total: -1)
12. MAJESTICKS GC (-4): Sam Horsfield 70, Lee Westwood 73, Ian Poulter 74 (Rd. 3 total: +4)
4ACES IMPRESSIVE DESPITE THE END OF THE STREAK
During the inaugural 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series, 4Aces GC was undefeated on American soil, claiming all four regular-season tournaments plus the Miami Team Championship. While that streak ended Sunday in Tucson, the 4Aces left The Gallery Golf Club feeling good after rallying to claim second place behind the winning Fireballs GC.
Patrick Reed led his team with a bogey-free 5-under 66, while Peter Uihlein and captain Dustin Johnson pitched in with 68s. The 11-under cumulative total was the best team performance of the day by seven shots. The 4Aces started the day in 10th place.
“Dustin, he can turn on the drop of a hat and make eight birdies in a row or shoot 63 any time, and that’s how good he is. And Reed can do the same thing. And Peter’s just so comfortable, he’s been playing great,” said Pat Perez, whose score counted the first two rounds. “So these guys can turn around. Especially Dustin. I mean, he’s just unbelievable.”
The runner-up finish is the second in as many tournaments for the 4Aces this season.
NA GLAD TO ADD LEE
Kevin Na shook up the Iron Heads lineup before this season, bringing back Scott Vincent and adding Danny Lee to the mix to join holdover, Sihwan Kim. The move has paid quick dividends with the Lee victory.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” Na said. “I think I made the right pick.”
The Iron Heads’ third-place finish is the team’s first-ever podium result. They had started the day tied for fourth.
“I wasn’t even looking at the individual score all day,” Lee said. “I was only asking how is our team doing. That’s the reason why Kevin called. That’s why I wanted to win as a team. We were a little bit short on the team, but this individual victory means a lot.”
HYFLYERS CONFIDENT DESPITE TOUGH DAY
Phil Mickelson and his HyFlyers GC entered Sunday in second place in the team standings, just one shot off the lead. But despite Brendan Steele making the four-man playoff by shooting a 1-under 70, the HyFlyers dropped out of podium contention with a collective 6-over day.
“We were super excited to be in this position obviously as a team,” said Steele, who joined LIV Golf before this season to play with his good friend Mickelson. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted today, but I think we’ll learn a lot from that.
“Phil’s been saying and preaching to us that winning’s a process. Just keep taking steps forward. I think we did that by making such a good run yesterday.”
OOSTHUIZEN NEARLY CAPTURES FIRST U.S. WIN
Louis Oosthuizen has 14 career professional victories, including the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrew’s. But the South African has never won on American soil.
He came close Sunday. Playing steady golf for most of the day, Oosthuizen was 3 under on his round through 13 holes. At that point, he was 11 under with a two-shot lead. But a three-putt bogey at 14 and another at 16 dropped him back into a tie.
After a bogey at the par-5 17th, he birdied the 18th after sticking his approach close to make the playoff. But in the three playoff holes, he faced two long birdie putts and a chip off the green, settling for pars each time.
RD. 3 STAT LEADERS
Driving distance – Peter Uihlein, 331.3-yard average
Longest drive – Dustin Johnson, 376.2 yards (5th hole)
Driving accuracy – Harold Varner III, 100% (14 of 14)
Greens in regulation – Carlos Ortiz, Mito Pereira, Talor Gooch, 83.33% (15 of 18)
Scrambling – Patrick Reed (6 of 6), 100%
Fewest putts – Jason Kokrak, 24 putts
Most birdies – Carlos Ortiz, 8
Bogey-free rounds – Patrick Reed (66)