Friday, June 14, 2024

G Mac claims sixth place as Cleeks pip Smash GC to LIV Houston crown – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Cleeks GC entered this week’s LIV Golf Houston as the last remaining club in LIV Golf’s young history to never celebrate either a team or individual trophy.

That changed on Sunday.

Captain Martin Kaymer’s team ended its drought in impressive fashion, shooting a three-day total of 33 under to win the team title at the Golf Club of Houston by two strokes over Smash GC and Fireballs GC.

In LIV Golf’s 30th tournament since its inception, the Cleeks finally popped champagne bottles atop the podium.

“This is why we signed up for LIV, to play for the team,” said Kaymer, whose team tied for second in the previous tournament in Singapore. “The individual is great, but to celebrate together and to do that together, this is why we came here, and this is why LIV exists, to have that team competition.”

The Houston individual title went to Torque GC’s Carlos Ortiz, who has celebrated four team victories but never an individual LIV victory. Ortiz shot a final-round 5-under 67 to finish at 15 under, one stroke ahead of the Cleeks’ Adrian Meronk. Houston-area resident Patrick Reed (4Aces GC) tied for third with David Puig (Fireballs GC) at 13 under.

For Ortiz, it’s his second win in Houston, as he won the Houston Open on a different course in 2020.

“I love playing here,” Ortiz said. “Obviously Texas treats me well. It’s my adopted home state. I’m just happy to get it done again in Houston.”

After gaining separation from the rest of the pack, Ortiz and Meronk found themselves in a duel for most of the back nine. Tied going into the par-4 15th, Ortiz birdied the hole while Meronk bogeyed it after finding trouble off the tee and having to take a penalty drop.

Ortiz bogeyed the 18th hole after missing his only green of the day, but Meronk’s birdie attempt slipped past the cup.

“He played unbelievable, and he put pressure all the way to the end,” Ortiz said of Meronk. “It was a good battle.”

“He played really great,” Meronk said of Ortiz. “He really deserved it. I hope I can get him next time.”

Meronk shot a final-round 68 for his best result since joining LIV Golf in the offseason. While disappointed not to win the individual title, he was happy to be part of the Cleeks’ first team celebration.

“That’s what’s cool about LIV, to have three other guys with you on the team,” Meronk said. “Even if you don’t win or you don’t perform as you want individually, you still have that team standings.”

The Cleeks started the final round five shots off the lead. But during the final nine holes, the team collectively caught fire. Kaymer birdied five of six holes. Kalle Samooja birdied three of five holes. Meronk birdied three consecutive holes. Bland birdied two straight.

Suddenly, the Cleeks held a six-shot lead. But it evaporated quickly with three team bogeys in quick succession, and the lead was down to one in the final stretch. Bland’s birdie on his final hole, the par-4 11th, was huge, as it gave the Cleeks a two-stroke advantage and essentially sealed the outcome.

“I gave myself such a talking-to to the 11th, and I said, you’d better birdie this hole,” Bland recalled. “Fortunately I hit a great wedge shot to two feet and knocked it in.”

A few minutes later, the Cleeks were popping champagne.

“When you see other guys lifting trophies, of course, that’s what you want to do,” Bland said. “It’s easy to see that we were going in the right direction. We were. Today we were able to pull it off. What a great feeling. It’s very, very special.”

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