Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Jun 05 2024
- 5 MIN
Cleeks preview Houston STORY image Kaymer

HUMBLE, Texas - If strong momentum is a guarantee for success, then Cleeks GC have every reason to be oozing confidence ahead of this week's LIV Golf Houston.

In their most recent LIV Golf start, in Singapore last month, the all-European Cleeks secured their best-ever team finish with a runner-up spot.

Then, exactly three weeks later, the ever-dependable Richard Bland clinched victory by three shots in the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Michigan to cap a fairytale debut in the over-50 ranks.

"We are trending in the right direction," Cleeks captain Martin Kaymer said while he and his team prepared for Friday's opening round at the Golf Club of Houston. "We had a couple of good finishes recently and we have a good team spirit. There's nothing holding us back. We can compete. We are maybe not the best team on paper in terms of successes from the past, but we have definitely the ability and the capability of doing well.

"This is something I look really forward to, to work towards, trying to win one of those (LIV Golf) trophies. I have never touched one of those trophies ... so I would like to do it. I would like to finish on top one time. I think it would be a really nice experience, and it would mean a lot to our team."

Prior to Singapore, the Cleeks had played very good golf for two days out of three in their three previous starts - in Hong Kong, Miami and Adelaide. It was always one round that cost them dearly. Hong Kong was especially painful since they held the lead for an extended time during the final round before slipping back into fifth spot.

However, in Singapore the Cleeks fired on all four cylinders before finishing in a tie for second place at Sentosa Golf Club.

With LIV Golf Promotions winner Kalle Samooja leading the way as he closed with a sparkling 7-under 64, the all-European combination secured their third career podium spot, following third-place finishes in Bangkok in 2022 and in Jeddah last year.

2023 DP World Tour Player of the Year Adrian Meronk was the best-placed Cleeks player, tying for 10th at 9-under after closing with a 71. Finland’s Samooja wound up joint 14th at 8-under, captain Kaymer shared 19th place at 7-under after signing off with a 71 and Englishman Bland ended up in a tie for 22nd at 6-under after returning a 69.

It was Meronk's third top 10 this season, Samooja was able to celebrate his first points finish in LIV Golf and German Kaymer, whose 2023 campaign was negatively impacted by pre-season wrist surgery, completed consecutive top-20 placings for the first time since 2022.

"Richard is playing really solid golf at the moment, or I'd say for the last three and a half years," said former world number one Kaymer. "Adrian is a very hardworking guy, a very solid player. If he finds a little bit more consistency in his game, I think that would make him even happier. Kalle is very excited to be out here. We have good dynamics.

"If you talk about my finishes, the top 20s, obviously it's not what I want. I would like to be a little bit higher up but, from where I've come from for the last two years, it's definitely trending in the right direction."

That tie for second place in Singapore certainly confirmed that the Cleeks are trending in the right direction, and it even led to them bemoaning an opportunity lost for a first-ever team victory.

"Is the glass half full or half empty? It's one of those things," Kaymer said with a smile. "Of course I blame myself for what happened in Singapore. "I had a good opportunity on 17 in the last round and a good opportunity on 18. I could have had two or three shots better, but I didn't do that. That would have meant that we would have been on top. I take complete blame for that.

"But I think it's a very good sign. It felt good knowing that we played solid, we played well, but we didn't play our very best. If that gets us to No. 2 already, it's a good sign. You don't need to play yourself out of your shoes in order to win one of those things."