CLEEKS PLACE 7TH IN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP; KAYMER, WIESBERGER CARD 72S
MIAMI – A week that began with high hopes for the Cleeks ended in bittersweet fashion as the all-European combination finished seventh in the LIV Golf Team Championship at Trump National Doral with none of their players shooting better than even par.
While that seventh spot was an improvement on their 10th seeding heading into Miami, they had hinted at even better things to come with a stunning 2-1 upset victory over the seventh-seeded Rippers in Friday's opening match-play quarterfinal round.
However, Cleek GC's hopes of qualifying as one of the four top-tier teams for Sunday's Final stroke-play round were dashed on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 by the second seed Crushers GC in the match-play semifinals. As a result, they were competing on Day 3 in Tier 2, for 5th-8th place.
Captain Kaymer initially set a positive tone for his team, rebounding from a bogey at the par-4 seventh (his second hole) with an eagle at the par-5 eighth and two birdies to get to 3-under with seven holes remaining. However, he lost momentum with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch en route to an even 72.
Bernd Wiesberger also started out playing solid golf, and he pocketed birdies at the eighth and 12th to sit at 2-under after 13 holes. He bogeyed the third before immediately rebounding with a birdie at the fourth, but then ended his round bogey-bogey-par to card a 72.
Richard Bland was unable to replicate his scintillating form from Friday's opening matchplay round, bogeys at the seventh, ninth and 13th leaving him at 3-over before he picked up his only shot of the day at the par-4 sixth on the way to a 74.
Graeme McDowell initially suffered even worse with four bogeys, a double at the par-4 14th and two birdies in his first 10 holes. However, he birdied the par-4 second and the par-4 fifth before a bogey-birdie finish earned him a 74.
Overall, though, the Cleeks can reflect on a strong finish to a season that, by the midway point, had looked somewhat bleak. After the first eight LIV Golf events of the year, Cleek GC had racked up five 12th-place finishes, along with just two top-10s.
By the time the regular season was over last week, they had gone 6-7-9-9 before finishing with a flourish to secure their first podium spot of 2023 by placing third on the team leaderboard at LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN.
Austrian Weisberger and Ulsterman McDowell both signed off with sizzling 7-under 63s at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, in-form Englishman Bland closed with a 66 and captain Kaymer carded a 70 as the team earned their seventh top-10 of the season, and their fifth in a row. Their three counting scores delivered an 18-under total, the best of any of the 12 teams on that last day.
"I think what the Cleeks did last week was very impressive, shooting those low scores on Sunday in Jeddah to get on the podium for the first time this year," said Kaymer.
Hardly surprisingly, the Cleeks had lofty expectations when they arrived in Miami for the final tournament of the season where $50 million in prize money was on the line.
And on Day 1, those expectations were met as they booked their place in the semifinals with an upset victory over the Rippers. Bland was seven under after 15 holes to triumph 4 and 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.
Unfortunately, that fairytale run came to a halt on Saturday when they lost 2-1 to the Crushers. Bland was crushed 6 and 5 by fellow Englishman Paul Casey while Kaymer lost 4 and 3 to Bryson DeChambeau. The one bright spot for the Cleeks was achieved by McDowell and Wiesberger, who came from 1 down after six holes to beat Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri 3 and 2 in a high-quality foursomes contest.