BOLTON, Mass. – In addition to celebrating his team’s third consecutive victory, 4 Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson also raised LIV Golf’s individual trophy for the first time, thanks to his lengthy eagle putt to win a three-man playoff at the LIV Golf Invitational Boston on Sunday.
Johnson’s 60-foot eagle putt on the first playoff hole gave him the victory over Anirban Lahiri and Joaquin Niemann, two of the six players making their LIV Golf debuts this week at The International. All three players finished regulation at 15 under. The playoff was the first in either the individual or team competition in this inaugural season.
The former world No. 1 had chances to win previous LIV Golf events – he has finished inside the top 5 in the previous two events and was playing in the final group for the third straight tournament. He was happy to finally get the job done individually in Boston while also moving to the top of the individual season-long point standings.
“I wanted to finally get my first victory out here,” said Johnson, who earned $4 million for the individual win and an additional $750,000 for his quarter share of the $3 million team prize. “I feel like I’ve had a really good chance to win every single week, just haven’t played as well on Sunday as I’d like to. But played really nicely today.”
Johnson’s winning putt had plenty of pace on it, and would’ve rolled several feet beyond the hole had it not bounced into the cup. Lahiri was in position to make a birdie, while Niemann had already made par.
“I felt like we had a really good read on it,” Johnson said. “I might have hit it a little harder than I wanted to, but as soon as I hit it, I’m like, whoa, and then it was on a good line, and I’m like, hit the hole, hit the hole, hit the hole, and it went in somehow. I think the hole is indented for sure.”
Johnson’s final-round 5-under 65 was one of three counting scores for 4 Aces GC to go along with Patrick Reed’s 66 and Talor Gooch’s 69.
After winning the previous two LIV Golf team competitions by a combined 15 strokes, Sunday’s team race was much tighter, with 4 Aces GC (32 under) winning by two shots over Crushers GC, while Majesticks GC claimed a tight battle for the third-place prize over Iron Heads GC and Torque GC.
At one point, 4 Aces GC were five strokes off the lead. But just like in their previous win in Bedminster, they closed fast. “I think that’s what’s so impressive about our team is it seems like every week, we seem to close,” said Reed. “… Even if it’s the wrong direction on us, we seem to close it off and get going towards the end. It just shows kind of how important it is for us to go out and play well.”
Lahiri, playing for Crushers GC, shot a 6-under 64. Lahiri had a chance to reach 16 under with a brilliant second shot into the par-5 18th hole, but his eagle putt lipped out.
“I knew I had to come in hot, both in terms of trying to contend and also for the team,” Lahiri said. “It was really nice to just buckle down on that back nine and play some golf. Really proud of the shots I hit. A little unlucky but sometimes it goes that way.”
Niemann, the 23-year-old from Chile who is ranked world No. 19, shot 66 while playing with Johnson and Gooch in the final group. He suffered his only bogey of the round at the par-4 14th, the most difficult hole this week. In the playoff, his errant drive forced him to lay up, and he was unable to convert a lengthy birdie putt.
“I did everything that I could,” Niemann said. “Hit a few good putts at the end but they didn’t go in. It’s the way it is. I think it’s going to pay me back one day.”
Two big names fell just short in making the playoff at 14 under.
Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood shot the lowest round in any of the first four events with an 8-under 62 but bogeyed two of his last three holes and finished at 14 under. “It’s a sickening way to finish, but I played good all day,” said the Majesticks GC captain, whose team finished in the top three for the third time this season.
New LIV Golf member Cameron Smith, the world No. 2 and reigning Open champion, shot 64 but also suffered a late bogey. “Really thought I was out of it after yesterday, but I played really solid today,” the Punch GC captain said. “Gave myself plenty of looks, which I needed to do.”
WESTWOOD SETS LIV GOLF RECORD WITH 62
Lee Westwood, starting his final round on the fourth hole, made birdies on four of his first five holes. Upon reaching the back nine holes at The International, he played it in a bogey-free 5 under.
So when he stood on the first tee at 9 under with three holes to play, well, one thing definitely crossed his mind.
“I was looking at 59,” Westwood said. “You don’t get many looks at that.”
Meanwhile, he was also battling on the leaderboard, tied for first at 15 under.
The par-4 first, alas, played as the toughest hole of the day. Westwood bogeyed the hole but bounced back with a birdie at the par-3 second with a brilliant tee shot to get back to 15 under and tied atop the leaderboard.
But at the par-4 third, his lob wedge shot came up short and in the bunker. He couldn’t not get up-and-down, with his par putt agonizingly close to going in and making a playoff.
‘A sickening way to finish,” Westwood said.
The consolation prize? A spot in the record books, as his 8-under 62 is the lowest round recording in the first four LIV Golf events.
CLOSE TEAM COMPETITION PRODUCES BIG DRAMA
In the first three LIV Golf events, the winning margin for the victorious team was 14 strokes in London (Stinger GC), seven strokes in Portland (4 Aces GC) and eight strokes in Bedminster (4 Aces GC). The LIV Golf Invitational Boston offered much closer competition down the stretch.
Standing on the 12th tee with teammate Talor Gooch, 4 Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson noticed his team was behind by four strokes. “All the guys, I know they’re all watching leaderboards, so we all rallied really hard to get another win, and I think that says a lot about the team,” Johnson said.
For most of the day, Iron Heads GC was in control. Kevin Na’s team was five strokes ahead at one point before collectively struggling down the stretch. Phachara Khongwatmai finished his round with three consecutive bogeys and Sadom Kaewkanjana suffered two bogeys and a double among his last four holes.
“We gave it a great run,” said Na after the Iron Heads’ fourth-place finish. “Too bad we fell a little short.”
Crushers GC, with new addition Anirban Lahiri, made some big shots on the back nine. Lahiri and Paul Casey shot 64, while Charles Howell III and captain Bryson DeChambeau shot 66, as Crushers made its finish podium finish of the year.
“I started looking at the scores at the 14th or 15th hole when we had a wait,” Lahiri said. “I pulled out my phone and checked what everybody was doing. I know how bad we wanted to compete. Everyone was hungry.”
Said DeChambeau: “If anything, I was more nervous for the team aspect. Glad we were able to get up there and finish second. Hopefully we’ll get a W soon.”
Majesticks GC overcame the loss of Henrik Stenson, the Bedminster individual winner who withdrew prior to the start of the first round due to vertigo. His replacement was 18-year-old Shergo Al Kurdi, whose 66 was one of the three counting scores.
“It was great,” said Kurdi, who turns 19 on Monday. “Really happy with the week. Really happy with the way I finished.”
“Shergo came in and did a great job,” said Majesticks GC captain Lee Westwood, whose team started the day in 10th but rode his record-setting 62 to move into the money.
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. The best two scores in Round 1, the best two scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 will combine to produce the team score.
The total team prize money for each event is $5 million, with the winning team dividing $3 million, second place dividing $1.5 million and third place dividing $500,000 among its four team members.
Here is the leaderboard and Sunday’s counting scores in the final round at The International:
1. 4 Aces GC, 32 under
Dustin Johnson 65
2. Crushers GC, 30 under
Anirban Lahiri 64
3. Majesticks GC, 27 under
Lee Westwood 62
4. Iron Heads GC, 26 under
Phachara Khongwatmai 66
5. Torque GC, 25 under
Jediah Morgan, 65
6. Fireballs GC, 23 under
Abraham Ancer 65
7. Punch GC, 23 under
Cameron Smith 63
8. Hy Flyers GC, 22 under
Cameron Tringale 68
9. Smash GC, 20 under
Jason Kokrak 66
10. Stinger GC, 18 under
Louis Oosthuizen 67
11. Cleeks GC, 16 under
Laurie Canter 65
12. Niblicks GC, 2 under
Harold Varner III 70
Joaquin Niemann (on his LIV Golf debut):
Best experience I’ve had on a golf course by far … Just seeing the crowd so young – you can feel the energy.
Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers GC captain):
This is not just an exhibition. It’s a little different than that. I’m excited to be a part of it. Every shot matters out here.
I’d love to see how the people who watch the action react. Because people say we’re not competitive. Well, if that’s not competitive, I don’t know what’s competitive.
Driving accuracy – Abraham Ancer, Jediah Morgan, 100% (13 of 13 fairways)
Driving distance – Harold Varner III, 320.9-yard average
Greens in regulation – Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Smith, Paul Casey, Richard Bland, 89% (16 of 18 greens).
Fewest putts – Sadom Kaewkanjana, Sam Horsfield, 24 putts
Easiest hole – 536-yard par-5 8th, which played to a stroke average of 4.083.
Hardest hole –524-yard par-4 1st, which played to a stroke average of 4.667.
Course stroke average: Rd. 1 (69/104). Rd. 2 (68.229). Rd. 3 (68.271). Par is 70.