DISAPPOINTING DAY FOR STINGERS WHO LOSE 3-0 TO TORQUE IN SEMIFINAL
MIAMI – The Stingers' hopes of qualifying as one of the four top-tier teams for Sunday's concluding stroke-play round were dashed on Saturday when they lost 3-0 to Torque GC in the match-play Semifinals at the LIV Golf Team Championship.
Branden Grace was hammered 7 & 6 by Sebastian Munoz and captain Louis Oostuizen was beaten 2 & 1 by Joaquin Niemann before Dean Burmester and Charl Schwartzel lost a tight foursomes contest with Mito Pereira and David Puig, 2 down.
All in all, it was a very disappointing finish to the match-play component at Trump National Doral for fifth seed Stinger GC, who played well here last year to place fourth in the season-ending Team Championship.
The all-South African combination had high hopes after completing a 3-0 victory over the 12th-seeded Iron Heads in Friday's match-play Quarterfinal round but they ran into a red-hot team on Saturday in the shape of the third seed Torque GC.
The youngest roster in the LIV Golf League, Torque GC won a League-leading four times as a team this season while newcomers Pereira and Munoz combined for three individual podium results.
Grace, whose wife Nieke gave birth to their second son on Monday, went 1 down after he ran up a double-bogey at the par-4 seventh, their second hole. Munoz then produced sizzling form with four successive birdies from the eighth to take charge as he raced into a 5-up lead.
The Colombian also birdied the par-5 12th, sinking a 5 footer, before wrapping up a commanding victory with a birdie at the par-4 17th.
Niemann seized early control against Oosthuizen with three birdies in the first four holes to go 3 up. Oosthuizen clawed one back after Niemann bogeyed the par-5 10th, but the Chilean went 3 up when Oosthuizen bogeyed the par-3 13th. Then South African also bogeyed the par-4 16th to hand Niemann a 4-up advantage before he trimmed the deficit with a birdie at par-4 17th.
Oosthuizen also won the par-4 18th after Niemann bogeyed before the Chilean sealed the 2 & 1 win after both players birdied the par-4 third.
"It was a lot more stressful at the end than I thought," said Niemann. "I thought we were dominating pretty good. I was 4-up. Our foursome was 3-up and Sebastian already won. I think that's what match play brings. We had to close it out, and yeah, Louis on my side, he started playing great golf at the end, and I was able to make good putts in the end, so pretty happy.
"Obviously this was our goal. We worked hard the whole year. We still have one more day but this is the position we want to be this morning, and we were happy that we are here right now."
The foursomes contest was a fluctuating affair and Burmester and Schwartzel went 1 up after their opponents bogeyed the opening hole, the par-4 seventh. The South African duo then moved 2 up after Burmester sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth.
Spaniard Puig rolled in a 25 footer for birdie at the par-3 13th for Torque GC to reduce the deficit to 1 down and further birdies followed for them at the par-3 15th and par-4 16th as they moved 1 up.
Burmester horseshoed out with a par putt from just four feet at the par-4 17th for Torque GC to go 2 up, and they went 3 up with a birdie at the par-5 first.
However, the drama then heightened as the South Africans won both the second and third on Torque bogeys to trail by just 1. However, Torque GC secured the win with a birdie at the par-4 sixth.