MAYAKOBA RECAP: BURMESTER SETTLES FOR A SHARE OF THIRD; STINGERS FINISH FIFTH
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – For Dean Burmester individually and for his Stinger GC teammates collectively, it was a case of "so close but so far" in the final round of the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba on Sunday.
The long-hitting Burmester twice moved into a share of the lead in his first seven holes before settling for a share of third place while the all-South African Stingers flirted with a podium finish in the early running before winding up in fifth spot.
Burmester, who went into the final round just two shots behind the pacesetting Joaquin Niemann, closed with a 1-under 70 at El Camaleon to post a 10-under total of 203. He played the par-5 holes superbly on the last day, pocketing birdies on all three, but failed to make the most of other opportunities as his putter occasionally let him down.
"That's the game of golf," said Burmester, who tied for third place with Masters champion Jon Rahm. "That's how it works sometimes. It wasn't my day, unfortunately, but it was there for the taking.
"Only 12-under won," he added, referring to the total posted by Torque GC's Joaquin Niemann, who won the individual title after a four-hole playoff with Fireballs GC's Sergio Garcia. "You're telling me I had to shoot 4-under today to win? I would have backed myself to do that, but unfortunately, it wasn't my day, so we'll try again next week. That's the game of golf."
Burmester, who won back-to-back DP World Tour titles in South Africa during the off-season, twice moved into a share of the lead early on in the final round. He hit a superb lag putt to set up a tap-in birdie at the par-5 fifth to join Niemann at 10 under, then again drew level with Niemann at 11 under after a two-putt birdie at the par-5 seventh.
However, Burmester was unable to make up further ground over the closing stretch. He bogeyed the ninth, picked up one more shot at the 13th but also bogeyed the 16th on his way to a 1-under score. All this after he put himself into contention for the title with opening rounds of 67 and 5-under 66.
"Look, he's the guy to catch," Burmester said of Niemann before the pair teed off together in the final round, along with Rahm. "There's no better place to be than right behind him and watch what he’s doing because that can dictate what you need to do sometimes. Around this golf course where you can hit it into mangroves on any hole, it's good to know what he's doing. I'm excited to play with him."
Burmester's three Stinger teammates each produced good moments during the final round at Mayakoba, and all four players returned sub-par scores. Captain Louis Oosthuizen made a red-hot start with five birdies in his first seven holes before running out of steam en route to a team-best 67 and a share of eighth place at 7-under. Oosthuizen ended the week ranked second in putting with a total of just 76 putts.
Branden Grace produced his best form of the week in the final round as he mixed five birdies with three bogeys to card a 69, finishing up in 49th spot, while Charl Schwartzel returned a 70 for 38th place at 3-over after offsetting two birdies with a lone bogey.
Overall, and despite the "what-ifs?" in the final round at El Camaleon, the Stingers can reflect on a very promising start to the 2024 LIV Golf season. They also came very close to matching their performance at last year's LIV Golf Mayakoba when they were able to celebrate a fourth-place team finish, along with a third spot for Grace on the individual leaderboard.
Last year's display at El Camaleon paved the way for a very successful 2023 campaign that featured one team win in Tulsa, a runner-up spot and four third-place finishes in 13 starts as they wound up fifth in the final team points standings. Hardly surprisingly, the all-South African combination returned to Mexico this week in upbeat mood over their prospects for 2024.
"We played solid last year," said Burmester, who joined LIV Golf in February 2023 after earning his PGA Tour card via the developmental Korn Ferry Tour. "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.
"I think we will come back bouncing and strong this year for sure. We are happy. Hopefully we can just get a few more 'W's this season."
The Stingers certainly came out bouncing and strong in Mexico and they will now be looking to improve on that as they head to Nevada for the February 8-10 LIV Golf Vegas.