BEDMINSTER, NJ: Cameron Smith will take a four-shot lead into Sunday’s final round at LIV Golf Bedminster. Considering the difficulty of the course and Smith’s current form, catching the Ripper GC leader will be a huge challenge for the rest of the field.
But Smith, who won LIV Golf London last month and is seeking his third LIV Golf victory, is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s nice to have,” he said after shooting a 4-under 67 Saturday to finish at 9 under through the first two rounds. “I wouldn’t say it’s close to the bag yet. There were some tee shots out there where it gets pretty narrow, and if the driver spins, you hit 3 off the tee. About as comfortable as I can be in a class like this.’
One of his closest pursuers is HyFlyers GC Captain Phil Mickelson, who also shot a 67 and is tied for second place with Stinger GC’s Dean Burmester at 9 under. Those three will be in the captain’s bracket — and for Mickelson, it’s the first time in his 18 regular-season LIV Golf starts that he’ll play in the final group on Sunday. The T2 position is his best after any LIV round of golf.
“It would mean a lot to me to win one of these events,” said the 53-year-old Mickelson, looking for his first professional victory since the 2021 PGA Championship. “I’m really trying hard. This is a strong goal of mine. I work very hard to do it.
“This is a great stepping stone for me to build on and to have this opportunity tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
Although Smith has a healthy lead in the individual standings, the team competition at Bedminster is close. Ripper GC and Stinger GC are tied at 11 under, with RangeGoats GC at 7 under and HyFlyers at 6 under.
LIV Golf has never had a team playoff in its history, but Sunday’s battle promises to be close. Smith’s Rippers are looking for their first team win after finishing second in London. Last week at the Greenbrier, Ripper failed to finish in the top 8 points receiving for the season competition.
“I think collectively as a team we’ve all been trying to work a little bit harder the last couple of months,” Smith said. “Don’t do anything different, just put the head down and you can see it bloom a little bit there.
“Last week wasn’t our best week but it’s good to see us back on top of that table and it gives me motivation to go out there and get another low tomorrow.”
The Stingers finished third at the Greenbrier and will be looking for their sixth podium finish of the season. The South African team could move into second place in the season standings behind 4Aces GC depending on how Torque GC goes on Sunday.
“Tomorrow, if we can beat a team, then everybody’s going to shave their heads,” Burmester said, “so I’m excited about that.”
Meanwhile, the excitement level for the final group is sure to be high, given that Mickelson has always had huge support from fans in the area. If they see him competing in the final round, it will increase their excitement.
“I love playing in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area,” Mickelson said. “People have been great to me here and it feels good to be hitting good shots and scoring good scores.”
Smith expects a vocal crowd to follow the leaders.
“I don’t mind a rowdy crowd,” he said. “I really enjoy it a lot.”
Here’s the score and tally for Saturday’s second round of team competition at LIV Golf Bedminster. The three best scores from each team count in each round towards their team’s overall score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
T1. RIPPER GC (-11): Cameron Smith 67, Marc Leishman 69, Matt Jones 70 (Rd. 2 score: -7)
T1. STINGER GC (-11): Louis Oosthuizen 68, Dean Burmester 68, Branden Grace 69 (Rd. 2 score: -8)
3. RANGEGOATS GC (-7): Bubba Watson 69, Thomas Pieters 69, Talor Gooch 70 (Rd. 2 score: -5)
4. HYFLYERS GC (-6): Phil Mickelson 67, James Piot 70, Brendan Steele 72 (Rd. 2 score: -4)
5. CRUSHERS GC (-5): Anirban Lahiri 64, Paul Casey 72, Bryson DeChambeau 73 (Rd. 2 score: -4)
6. 4ACES GC (-3): Patrick Reed 70, Peter Uihlein 70, Pat Perez, 73 (Rd. 2 score: Even)
7. FIREBALLS GC (-2): Carlos Ortiz 70, Sergio Garcia 70, Eugenio Chacarra 71 (Rd. 2 score: -2)
8. CLEEKS GC (+2): Richard Bland 70, Graeme McDowell 71, Martin Kaymer 73 (Rd. 2 score: +1)
9. TORQUE GC (+3): David Puig 70, Mito Pereira 71, Joaquin Niemann 72 (Rd. 2 score: Even)
10. IRON HEADS GC (+5): Kevin Na 69, Scott Vincent 70, Danny Lee 75 (Rd. 2 score: +1)
11. MAJESTICS GC (+6): Laurie Canter 69, Ian Poulter 69, Henrik Stenson 74 (Rd. 2 score: +3)
12. SMASH GC (+8): Jason Kokrak 71, Matthew Wolff 73, Brooks Koepka 76 (Rd. 2 score: +7)
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