Andalucia preview: Stingers look to improve on Nashville momentum at Valderrama

Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Jul 10 2024
- 4 MIN
Stingers Andalucia preview STORY image

SOTOGRANDE, Spain – After experiencing a hit-or-miss season so far, the Stingers will be hoping to build on the impressive form they showed in their most recent start at this week's LIV Golf Andalucía.

In their last three outings, the all-South African combination have finished 10th in Singapore and a lowly 11th in Houston before getting things back on track with fifth place in Nashville.

Stinger GC was knocked off its stride in Houston where captain Louis Oosthuizen had to withdraw before the start of the second round due to a lower back injury but his return in Nashville came as a timely boost.

"We had a good go in Houston, but I'm sure everybody just didn't have their 'A' games, either," said Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion. "Losing Louis was a bummer, but then none of us that played had our 'A' games.

"Louis has been playing so good for the last eight months, so losing a guy like that that's so consistent and plays well, that's always a setback."

Oosthuizen led by example in Nashville, firing a superb 7-under 64 in the final round at The Grove to finish 13th in the individual standings (at 9-under). Schwartzel and Dean Burmester shared 25th place while Branden Grace wound up tied for 35th.

With just four events left in the LIV Golf regular season, the long-hitting Burmester sits fourth in the season-long individual standings while Oosthuizen occupies fifth place. Schwartzel is in 19th position and Grace, who has been contending with ganglion cysts in his wrist for several years, is 52nd.

"You kind of feel like you're letting the team down," said Grace, who finished second in the Individual Championship race behind Dustin Johnson in LIV Golf's beta season in 2022. "This year, Dean and Louis have really been performing well, and Charl has been up there. I've just been kind of managing it.

"On the final days, I've felt like I've come in there and it hasn't been that bad. I just need to get one good round out there, a 5- or 6-under, and then I'm gonna go."

For Oosthuizen, who has been a runner-up this year in both Jeddah and Adelaide, it all comes down to his team gelling effectively in the final round.

"All four of us just need to play well together on the Sunday, now that all four scores count," said the winner of the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews.

"Obviously it's a little bit more pressure on everyone playing well and some days you force it and it doesn't happen and then other days it happens by itself. So, I think it's just a matter of having one tournament with a really good Sunday and sort of taking it from there."

In their first nine LIV Golf starts this year, the Stingers have clinched three podium finishes while they have also produced four results of ninth or worse.

Their best performance was a runner-up spot in Adelaide, where they were agonizingly beaten in a playoff for the title by Ripper GC, while their lowest moment came in Las Vegas, where they struggled in surprisingly cold temperatures before finishing 12th out of 13. The last time the Stingers tasted team victory was just over a year ago - at LIV Golf Tulsa in May 2023 - so they are long overdue success.

A possible concern for the Stingers this week might be memories of last year's LIV Golf Andalucía where they arrived as one of the hottest teams in the league before ending up in a disappointing ninth place out of 12.

Burmester was the best player for Stinger GC last year, securing 14th spot with scores of 70, 74 and 69. Oosthuizen placed 23rd, Grace ended up in 31st and Schwartzel finished in 42nd.

Real Club Valderrama has always been a challenging venue for the game's best players. The course puts a premium on good ball-striking and keeping the ball in play, and level par is often a very good score. Add in strong, gusting winds, and the challenge becomes even harder.

On paper, though, the Stingers seems to be well suited to Real Club Valderrama. They occupy sixth place in the season-long team standings, rank fourth for greens in regulation percentage and second in scrambling. Expect the South African quartet to prosper this week.