LAID-BACK STINGERS TARGET BYE; GRACE EYES THIRD
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Throughout the year, the Stingers have benefited from a philosophy of "having fun" and they are well placed to profit once again from this approach as they head into the regular-season finale this week at LIV Golf Jeddah.
The all-South African combination occupies fourth spot in the season-long standings, having finished eighth in their most recent start at LIV Golf Chicago to claim the last point-producing result on the team leaderboard.
If they can secure a top-four finish in Jeddah, they will receive a first-round bye for the Team Championship in Miami the following week.
Stinger GC also has two players riding high in the season-long individual points race.
Branden Grace, who has recorded three podium finishes this season among his five top-10s, is currently placed sixth and he enters Jeddah with a mathematical chance to finish in the bonus-paying third spot in the individual standings.
Last year, Grace claimed second place in the season-long standings after the tiebreakers.
Dean Burmester, who joined LIV Golf in February this year after earning his PGA Tour card via the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, is in 14th place and has locked up a top-24 finish in the standings to guarantee himself a spot in the 2024 League.
All in all, it has been a very successful 2023 campaign for the Stingers, who are now in prime position to secure a bye for Miami if they continue their impressive form in Jeddah.
For captain Louis Oosthuizen, earning a bye is more significant than finishing the regular season in the top team spot.
"The top spot going into Miami doesn't really mean a lot," said Oosthuizen, who is in 22nd position in the individual standings. "You still need to play match play on that Saturday then, and anything can happen. The bye I think is more important to know that you're only starting on Saturday and you can prepare a little bit more."
For the LIV Golf Team Championship, teams will be seeded 1-12 based on the final regular season standings after Jeddah. The top four teams will receive a first-round bye in Miami and automatically qualify for Saturday’s semifinals. Teams seeded 5-12 will compete in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Defending champion 4Aces GC is the current points leader and the only team going into Jeddah that has already secured a first-round bye. The next four teams in the standings – No. 2 Crushers GC, No. 3 Torque GC, No. 4 Stinger GC and No. 5 RangeGoats GC – are vying for the final three byes.
Oosthuizen, who has a scoring average this season of 69.5, believes the team's laidback strategy this year has been a major factor in their collective success.
"We just try and have fun," Oosthuizen said of a team who love to bond together away from the golf course while enjoying a braai, the South African equivalent of a barbeque.
"Sort of always been that way when we're together, and when we're on the golf course it's all golf and we focus on what we want to do and achieve. Just the rest of it, we're trying to have a good time, and try and smile while we're playing. I think we just gel really well together, and we don't really get down on each other. As for the braais, they are always good fun, and great for team bonding!"