CLEEKS LOSE TO CRUSHERS IN SEMIS; G-MAC-WIESBERGER WIN FOURSOMES
MIAMI – The fairytale run by the 10th-seeded Cleeks at the season-ending LIV Golf Team Championship came to a halt on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 by the second seed Crushers GC in the match-play Semifinals.
Richard Bland, who had produced scintillating form at Trump National Doral on Friday in the opening match-play Quarterfinal round, was crushed 6 & 5 by fellow Englishman Paul Casey, while Cleeks captain Martin Kaymer lost 4 & 3 to Bryson DeChambeau.
The one bright spot for the all-European Cleeks was achieved by Graeme McDowell and Bernd Wiesberger, who came from 1 down after six holes to beat Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri 3 & 2 in a high-quality foursomes contest.
All this after the Cleeks had booked their place in the Semifinals with a stunning 2-1 upset victory over the seventh-seeded Rippers on Friday. Bland was seven under after 15 holes to triumph 4 & 3 against Marc Leishman, Kaymer lost to 2022 Open champion Cameron Smith on the 19th hole and McDowell and Wiesberger won an epic foursomes battle against Matt Jones and Jediah Morgan on the 21st hole.
On Saturday, however, it was very different. The Cleeks faced the in-form Crushers, who won two team and three individual titles this season, while DeChambeau set a LIV Golf League record with a 12-under 58 in the final round at LIV Golf Greenbrier.
Bland was always up against it in his match after Casey raced 2-up with two birdies in the first three holes. Further birdies followed for Casey at the first and third before he hit his tee shot to within two feet of the flag at the par-3 fourth to set up another birdie for a 5-up advantage.
Casey then rolled in an eight-footer to birdie the par-4 fifth and go 6 up. Although he bogeyed the par-4 sixth to slip back to 5 up, he won the par-4 seventh with a birdie to regain a 6-up buffer.
Bland responded with a birdie of his own at the par-5 eighth, but Casey won the ninth with a par before sealing a 6 and 5 win when both players parred the 10th.
"Paul played lights out," said DeChambeau. "Proud of him. Paul has a history and record of playing really well in the singles matches in the Ryder Cups that he's been part of. I trusted him with that and he told me, 'I'm ready to go,' and I never questioned it."
DeChambeau went 1 up after Kaymer bogeyed their third hole, the par-4 17th, before the German leveled the match with a birdie at the par-5 first. However, DeChambeau then sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-4 second to get back to 1 up.
The American hit a stunning wedge to within two feet of the flag for birdie at the par-4 third to go 2 up. Kaymer clawed one back with a birdie at the par-4 fifth, but DeChambeau responded with a birdie at the seventh to get back to 2 up.
An eagle at the eighth put DeChambeau 3 up, and he then hit his approach inside two feet at the par-4 11th for birdie to complete a 4 and 3 victory.
"I played pretty good up against Martin," said DeChambeau. "He actually played pretty solid. I had a couple of missed drives. Other than that, he put some fresh on me three-fourths of the way through the match. Then I just stepped on the gas and never let him have a chance to get a couple back. It was a good day of play for me, and let's it translate it to tomorrow."
In the foursomes contest, the Crushers took an early 1-up lead when Howell sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, the par-4 17th. The next five holes were halved before the Cleeks birdied the par-4 fifth and then benefited from a Crushers bogey at the par-4 seventh to go 1 up.
McDowell and Wiesberger went on to birdie the 10th and 12th and move 2 up before completing the win with a birdie at the par-4 14th.