MAYAKOBA RECAP: CLEEKS FINISH EIGHTH IN TEAM STANDINGS; ACES HIGH FOR BLAND
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – A hole-in-one from Richard Bland was just one of many encouraging signs for the all-European Cleeks in the final round of the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico on Sunday.
Bland and his captain Martin Kaymer each ended the week on a strong note by shooting 4-under 67s at El Camaleon while collectively the team fared a great deal better than they did at the same venue one year ago, ending up eighth out of 13 in the standings with a 9-under total. Twelve months ago, Cleeks GC was the only team to finish over par for the week at Mayakoba.
The ultra-consistent Bland, who celebrated his 51st birthday on Saturday, was once again the best player for the Cleeks. After starting the week with a sizzling 5-under 66 and then faltering in strong winds with a second-round 74, the Englishman bounced back on Sunday with a 67 highlighted by an ace at the 152-yard, par-3 8th hole.
Bland landed his tee shot there on the green just short of the pin and then watched as his ball rolled into the bottom of the cup for the fifth ace in LIV Golf League history. He also carded four birdies and two bogeys on Sunday for a 67 that left him in a tie for 11th at 6-under 207.
Next best for the Cleeks was Kaymer after rounds of 70, 76 and 67 earned him a share of 28th place at even par. 2023 LIV Golf Promotions champion Kalle Samooja of Finland returned a 70 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 32nd while 2023 DP World Tour Player of the Year Adrian Meronk ended a challenging week in 47th spot after closing with a 73.
Samooja can certainly take a lot of encouragement from his first start in the LIV Golf League and world number 42 Meronk, a four-times winner on the DP World Tour, is a high-quality player who can be expected to settle into his customary form over the coming weeks.
Samooja and Meronk were only introduced to their Cleeks team mates at the start of the week after being added to fill the roster spots left open after Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland finished 41st and 42nd respectively in last year's Individual Standings and were not re-signed by the team as free agents.
The Cleeks will certainly take great comfort from the form displayed by Kaymer in Sunday's final round. The German former world number one mixed six birdies with just two bogeys and ended the week in Mayakoba ranked 14th in fairways hit (with 19), in total putts (with 80) and total birdies (with 13).
This from a player who was not at his best for much of last year after recuperating from offseason wrist surgery.
"It's great that Martin seems to be a bit more fully fit than he was last year," said Bland. "He was always sort of behind the eight-ball a little bit last year with the injury and then kind of playing with that mentally is not easy so he was never at the peak of his powers last year.
"And we all know what kind of player Martin is - he's world-class. Hopefully he can produce some of the golf that we know he can produce this year."
Based on his week in Mayakoba, Kaymer has already started producing some of that golf.
"I joined the LIV Golf League to also make a difference and have a second career but I was so far away the last year because of the injuries that I had," said Kaymer. "Finally I feel like I can do something this year. I feel really motivated."