Monday, May 20, 2024

Koepka prepares for PGA Championship defence with LIV Singapore victory – Irish Golfer Magazine

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While Ripper GC rode the momentum of last week’s home victory to a second straight team title Sunday at LIV Golf Singapore, Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka lit the fuse of a hot streak he hopes will produce a successful title defense at the upcoming PGA Championship and his win in Singapore is the 20th of his professional career. But it’s his first as a father, and he enjoyed the celebration on the 18th hole with his wife Jena and their 9-month-old son Crew.

Led by captain Cameron Smith and veteran Marc Leishman, the all-Australian Rippers overcame any concerns of a hangover effect after their emotional victory in Adelaide, shooting a final-round counting score of 10 under at Sentosa Golf Club to win by three strokes over Fireballs GC and Cleeks GC as the 2024 season reached its halfway point.

“I kind of knew all year that we were going to get the ball rolling at some point,” said Smith, whose team finished at 32 under and moved to third in the season-long points standings. “I think internally that we’re the best team out here, and we’re going to be tough to beat when we all have our best stuff.”

Certainly, when Koepka has his best stuff, he’s nearly impossible to beat. On Sunday, he shot a 3-under 68 to finish at 15 under for a two-stroke victory over Smith and Leishman, in the process becoming the first player in LIV Golf history to win four individual tournament titles. He’ll head into the PGA Championship at Valhalla in two weeks feeling confident about his chances to win a sixth career major.

“It’s all starting to come around,” said Koepka, who became the first active LIV Golf player to win a major with his victory last year at Oak Hill. “I like the way things are trending.”

Koepka started the day with a three-shot lead, but a variety of challengers closed the gap throughout the round. Koepka never gave up the lead, though, and he bounced back from his only bogey – a three-putt at the ninth – with a birdie.

A late Leishman birdie moved the Aussie within a shot, but a bogey on his final hole gave Koepka a two-shot lead going into the par-5 18th, and he played conservatively to avoid the water.

“I felt the heat, but it was mainly because of how hot it was,” Koepka said. “Just played very consistent, missed it in the right spots. When you’re playing with a lead, you do that. You don’t have to force anything.”

The Rippers started the day one stroke back of Smash but grabbed the lead 11 holes into the round when Smith and Leishman heated up. The captain was six under during a 10-hole stretch en-route to a 7-under 64, which tied for the lowest round of the day. Leishman was 5 under during a nine-hole stretch as he shot a 66. Matt Jones had a 70 while Lucas Herbert shot a 74 but steadied the ship after suffering a double bogey on his sixth hole.

“It’s amazing,” Jones said. “Last week was a very special week for us, but to come out here this week and do it again, it’s really special.”

The vibe was certainly different than a week ago when the Rippers had 94,000 Aussies hanging on their every shot. But the outcome was the same.

“It was certainly a challenge,” Leishman said of fighting the hangover effect. “It might have been a blessing in disguise. Yes, we partied pretty hard for a couple of days, but then we all had Tuesday off. I don’t know if many of us left our hotel rooms.

“And I think conserving energy this week was pretty important, particularly for the end of the week when everyone is worn out. We were worn out, but I think just taking it so easy early in the week might have helped us just to have that little bit of mental strength that it took to get across the line.”

In two weeks, Koepka will try to make it two straight PGA Championship wins. And next month in Houston, the Rippers will try to make it three consecutive LIV Golf team titles.

“It’s probably a good thing to have a couple of weeks off,” said Smith. “It’ll be another hot one in Houston. We all love the heat. I think we’ve all played that golf course before. We’re looking forward to getting there and keeping the momentum rolling.”

TEAM COUNTING SCORES

Standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Singapore. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. RIPPER GC -32 (Smith 64, Leishman 66, Jones 70, Herbert 74; Rd. 3 score -10)

T2. FIREBALLS GC -29 (Chacarra 68, Garcia 68, Puig 68, Ancer 71; Rd. 3 score -9)

T2. CLEEKS GC -29 (Samooja 64, Bland 69, Kaymer 71 Meronk 71; Rd. 3 score -9)

4. SMASH GC -28 (Gooch 67, Koepka 68, McDowell 71, Kokrak 73; Rd. 3 score -5)

5. LEGION XIII -26 (Hatton 66, Rahm 67, Surratt 71, Vincent 71; Rd. 3 score – 9)

T6. TORQUE GC -25 (Ortiz 64, Niemann 67, Pereira 70, Muñoz 71; Rd. 3 score -12)

T6. RANGEGOATS GC -25 (Watson 67, Uihlein 68, Pieters 69, Wolff 76; Rd. 3 score -4)

T8. 4ACES GC -21 (Johnson 66, Reed 66, Perez, 71 Varner III 72; Rd. 3 score -9)

T8. HYFLYERS GC -21 (Mickelson 67, Ogletree 67, Steele 71, Tringale 71; Rd. 3 score -8)

10. STINGER GC -19 (Burmester 68, Grace 69, Oosthuizen 71, Schwartzel 71; Rd. 3 score -5)

11. CRUSHERS GC -17 (DeChambeau 69, Casey 70, Lahiri 70, Howell III 71; Rd. 3 score -4)

12. IRON HEADS GC -6 (Na 67, Lee 69, Kozuma 76, Vincent 76; Rd. 3 score +4)

13. MAJESTICKS GC E (Horsfield 70, Poulter 73, Stenson 73, Westwood 75; Rd.3 score +7)

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