NIEMANN BEATS GARCIA IN PLAYOFF; RAHM’S LEGION XIII WINS TEAM TITLE IN DEBUT

BY LIV GOLF STAFF
 
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Joaquin Niemann’s Sunday started with a two-stroke penalty but ended in a champagne celebration as he birdied the fourth playoff hole in near-darkness to beat Sergio Garcia and win his first individual LIV Golf title at Mayakoba.
 
“I’m pretty happy that the day ended this way, especially how the morning started,” said the Torque GC captain. “I think dinner is going to taste a little bit better than breakfast.”
 
Meanwhile, Jon Rahm bogeyed his final two holes to miss the playoff, but his new Legion XIII expansion team captured the team trophy in an impressive LIV Golf debut, earning the title by four shots over defending Mayakoba champions Crushers GC in the first regular-season Sunday in which every score counted for each team. Legion XIII shot a cumulative score of 14 under on Sunday, best of any team.
 
“It’s very nice in a day in which in any normal tournament I probably would have been upset at my finish to actually have something to celebrate,” said Rahm, the reigning Masters champ who joined LIV Golf in December. “That is one of the big reasons why I decided to transition.”

Torque GC Captain Joaquín Niemann wins in a playoff over Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia at LIV Golf Mayakoba. (Photo by Doug DeFelice/LIV Golf)

It was a drama-filled Sunday at El Camaleon, and it started even before the first tee shot was struck when Niemann’s 4-shot lead through 36 holes was reduced to two shots due to a rules violation regarding incorrect relief in Saturday’s round.

But the Torque GC captain – who opened the tournament with a 12-under 59 on Friday – overcame the setback, shooting a 1-under 70 to finish at 12 under to match Garcia, who shot a final-round 66 to make his second LIV Golf playoff. Last year in Singapore, he lost in a playoff to Talor Gooch.

Niemann and Garcia exchanged pars for the first three playoff holes. In the fading light and with the gallery chanting for one more hole, both players agreed to continue.

Garcia’s approach shot on the fourth playoff hole found a small patch of rough near the greenside bunker while Niemann’s finished on the fringe. He buried the putt as the nearby scoreboard provided light.

“The last putt, which it was super dark, I think it probably helped me just not being so picky on picking my spot and just looking at the hole, getting a feeling and just get it there,” said the 25-year-old Niemann. “It was the best way to end it up. I wanted to make a putt on the last one to win.”

Rahm finished at 10 under to share third place with Stinger GC’s Dean Burmester. His 1-under 70 was the highest score of the four Legion XIII players.

Tyrrell Hatton contributed the team’s lowest score, a 7-under 64 which was the low round in the field on Sunday. Kieran Vincent added a 69, but the most impressive performance may have been from 19-year-old Caleb Surratt, making his professional debut this week.

After suffering a four-putt triple bogey at the par-4 17th, Surratt reeled off five consecutive birdies to end his round with a 4-under 67. Those five birdies were vital for Legion XIII to hold off the hard-charging Crushers down the stretch.

“I told myself after that triple that I’m not going to be shaken from anything that happens,” said Surratt, who only recently moved out of his dorm room at the University of Tennessee. “I put my head down and played.”

During Legion XIII’s podium celebration, Rahm said he was careful not to spray the teenager with too much champagne. “I didn’t want to overdo with him,” he said.Said Surratt: “I was just happy to hold the trophy.”

COUNTING SCORES
Standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Mayakoba. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
 
1. LEGION XIII -24 (Hatton 64, Surratt 67, Vincent 69, Rahm 70; Rd. 3 score -14)
 
2. CRUSHERS GC -20 (Lahiri 67, DeChambeau 68, Howell III 68, Casey 68; Rd. 3 score -13)
 
3.TORQUE GC -17 (Niemann 70, Muñoz 70, Ortiz 70, Pereira 70; Rd. 3 score -4)
 
4. STINGER GC -16 (Oosthuizen 67, Grace 68, Schwartzel 70, Burmester 70; Rd. 3 score -8)
 
5. RIPPER GC -16 (Jones 66, Smith 67, Leishman 70, Herbert 71; Rd. 3 score -10)
 
6. FIREBALLS GC -13 (Garcia 66, Ancer 67, Chacarra 71, Puig 71; Rd. 3 score -9)
 
7. SMASH GC -12 (Koepka 68, Gooch 68, McDowell 72, Kokrak 73; Rd. 3 score -3)
 
8. CLEEKS GC -9 (Bland 67, Kaymer 67, Samooja 70, Meronk 73; Rd. 3 score -7)
 
9. MAJESTICKS GC -7 (Westwood 69, Horsfield 69, Stenson 70, Poulter 71; Rd. 3 score -5)
 
10. RANGEGOATS GC +2 (Wolff 68, Uihlein 71, Watson 73, Pieters 73; Rd 3 score +1)
 
11. HYFLYERS GC +2 (Steele 70, Ogletree 70, Tringale 71, Mickelson 74; Rd. 3 score +1)
 
12. 4ACES GC +3 (Johnson 67, Perez 71, Reed 73, Varner III 77; Rd. 3 score +4)
 
13. IRON HEADS GC +6 (Na 70, Kozuma 71, Vincent 74, Lee 75; Rd. 3 score +6)

ROUND 3 NOTES
 
LEGION XIII MAKES GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION: Jon Rahm and his Legion XIII team are LIV Golf’s first expansion team, and Rahm himself said earlier in the week he wasn’t sure how quickly they would jell as a team.
 
As it turned out, it only took three rounds for them to become the ninth different LIV Golf team to win a trophy.
 
“For us to do what we did and perform and get the win, I’m glad that we proved it to ourselves and everybody that we’re a team to reckon with,” Rahm said.
 
Said Tyrrell Hatton: “I didn’t know what to expect. For all of us, these are new experiences. I really enjoyed the week, and winning as a team is good fun, and hopefully we can keep that going.”
 
FIRST INDIVIDUAL TITLE FOR TORQUE: Last year, Torque GC won a LIV Golf-best four-team trophies but were shut out in the individual competition. Captain Joaquin Niemann said he was glad to break through on that front, but he missed being able to celebrate with his team.
 
Torque started the final round with a five-shot lead but settled for third place after a cumulative score of 4 under.
 
As he conducted his winner’s interview, Niemann said he felt a “little bit alone.”
 
“It’s always fun to have the other three – Mito (Pereira), Sebastián (Muñoz) and Carlos (Ortiz) on my side here, especially in interviews,” he said. “It makes it a little bit more fun. It would’ve been nice being with them, throwing champagne.
 
“But I think it’s still good. We still had a good finish.”
 
GARCIA GLAD FOR CHANCE TO WIN: Although Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia didn’t win the playoff against Joaquin Niemann, he was happy to at least be in contention – especially since he’s still working on things with his game.
 
“If you had told me before the week started that I would’ve been in this position, I would’ve taken this for sure,” Garcia said. “I wasn’t feeling great. My swing is still not feeling great. To be able to hang in there as much as I did and almost win without feeling very comfortable at all is a positive.  I need to get better, but I still managed to give myself a chance.”
 
BLAND RECORDS LIV GOLF’S 4TH ACE: Cleeks GC’s Richard Bland posted the fourth hole-in-one in LIV Golf history at the 152-yard par-3 8th in the final round. It’s the 11th ace in Bland’s career. The Englishman turned 51 on Saturday.
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