LAS VEGAS PREVIEW: 'HAPPY' STINGERS GC SET FOR NEVADA
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – As the 2024 LIV Golf League shifts its focus to Nevada for this week's LIV Golf Las Vegas, the all-South African Stingers will certainly be backing themselves to hit the jackpot in Sin City.
At last week's season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico, Stinger GC contested strongly for a podium finish before having to settle for fifth place while Dean Burmester made an impressive run at the individual title on Sunday before ending up in third spot.
All very encouraging signs for a team that has gelled well since its inception in 2022, and has made a habit of being perennial contenders in the LIV Golf League.
Last year, the Stingers were able to celebrate a team victory in Tulsa, a runner-up spot and four third-place finishes in 13 starts before ending the season fifth in the final team points standings.
"We played solid last year," said the long-hitting Burmester, who returned scores of 67, 66 and 70 at El Camaleon last week to post a 10-under total of 203. "We were up there as the most solid team for the year, us and probably the 4Aces. Unfortunately, we didn't rack up enough points when we had the opportunities. We should have finished second a couple of times but we ended up with thirds, and a couple of other things.
"Being South African, we grow up in team sport. Team sport is massive for us. To play alongside three guys that I really admire and three really great friends is really special. All four of us are pretty solid, and three of us are bound to fire on any one day. We are a happy team, and hopefully we can just get a few more 'W's this season."
Burmester is very likely to be the Stingers player to watch in Las Vegas after producing excellent form since the 2023 LIV Golf League season concluded last October in Miami, highlighted by back-to-back victories on the DP World Tour.
He clinched his 10th career professional title at the Joburg Open in November, winning by three shots after closing with a superb 6-under 64, and then triumphed by three strokes the following week at the Investec South African Open.
"It's a long break from Miami until the start of the next LIV Golf League season," said Burmester. "If you're not playing any golf, that's a long break away from tournament golf. I'm fortunate enough to still be able to play in South Africa, and that was kind of a culmination of a whole year of playing pretty solid. To go and win those two events has just boosted my confidence.
"I've got great belief in what I can do and what I'm doing. Getting a win under your belt gives you so much confidence for a prolonged period of time. It doesn't matter where you hit it, you still believe you can do something with it."
Burmester went into the final round at Mayakoba just two shots behind the pacesetting Joaquin Niemann and he twice moved into a share of the lead in his first seven holes before ending up in a share of third place. He ended his week ranked seventh in driving distance (300.3 yards) and tied for 10th for total birdies (14).
Stinger GC captain Louis Oosthuizen, who emulated Burmester with back-to-back DP World Tour victories at the end of last year, also performed well at Mayakoba. He made a red-hot start to the final round with five birdies in his first seven holes before running out of steam on the way to a team-best 67 and a share of eighth place at 7-under.
Oosthuizen ranked second in putting in Mayakoba (with a total of just 76 putts) and was tied for seventh for total birdies (with 15).
While the other two Stingers players finished well down the leaderboard in Mexico - Charl Schwartzel placed 38th and Branden Grace 49th - they both contributed to the cause on Sunday as the all-South African combination contended strongly for team glory before coming up a little short.
Grace, who ended the 2023 regular season placed ninth place in the individual standings, produced a mixed bag of results at Mayakoba. He impressively tied for ninth in greens in regulation but he ranked stone-last (54th) for putting (with a total of 95 putts) and will certainly be looking to fare better on the greens this week at Las Vegas Country Club.