MIAMI PREVIEW: 2022 DORAL MEMORIES A POTENTIAL BOOST FOR STINGERS
MIAMI – Stinger GC will be looking to feed off good memories from last year when they compete in this week's LIV Golf Team Championship on the fabled Blue Monster layout at Trump National Doral.
Twelve months ago, the all-South African combination played well at Doral, finishing fourth in the season-ending Team Championship after both Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel shot 1-under 71s on the final day.
Although the Stingers have arrived in Florida a little frustrated after failing to secure a first-round bye for Miami at last week's LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN, they had the luxury as the fifth seeds of being the first team to select their opponents for Friday's opening match-play quarterfinal round. The top four teams receive a first-round bye and automatically qualify for Saturday’s semifinals.
Stinger GC will take on the 12th-seeded Iron Heads with captain Oosthuizen playing against Kevin Na, Branden Grace coming up against Scott Vincent and the foursomes contest pitting Dean Burmester and Charl Schwartzel against Sihwan Kim and Danny Lee.
"We are happy with that selection and we didn't want to play any other teams," Oosthuizen said, his comments sparking ripples of laughter during Wednesday's team selection press conference. "We'll have some fun but it's match play. We all know anything can happen, but I think our team is ready to take them on.
"We basically kept it the same as last year. Me and Branden played singles last year, and he's pretty good with doing his own thing. He gets in that little bubble that he normally gets in. And we put Charl and Dean together. The two of them are going to try and keep each other calm, which would be interesting to see, but the two of them will be a great matchup in foursomes."
The Stingers will be formidable opposition for the Iron Heads after finishing up in fifth place in the team standings after last week's regular-season finale. During 2023, they have produced one win, one runner-up spot and four third-place finishes in 13 starts.
Grace ended the regular season in the seventh spot among the money leaders, with Burmester 17th, Oosthuizen 20th and Schwartzel 37th. Grace has recorded five top-10s during 2023, Burmester five, Oosthuizen three and Schwartzel one.
"We really want to give a good push to the end," Oosthuizen said of his team’s intent in the final event of the 2023 LIV Golf League season where $50 million in prize money is on the line. "This is a golf course that I always loved coming to play when the Cadillac was here. It's a pity that we don't get to play it, or didn't get to play it for quite a few years.
"It's nice getting back here and playing it. It's an unbelievable golf course. Once the wind picks up a little bit, it is truly the Blue Monster. It's going to be a great test. It's not just getting it up and ripping it. You need to work your way around this golf course. It's just a spectacular setting."
Perhaps the biggest distraction for the Stingers will come on Saturday when South Africa are set to take on England in the semi-finals of the 2023 Rugby World Cup being played in France. That heavyweight match is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET, around the midway point of Saturday’s semifinal round at Trump National Doral.
Oostuizen and his teammates obviously hope to be playing golf that afternoon, assuming that they emerge victorious over the Iron Heads in Friday's quarterfinal round.
"If the plans don't go well on Friday, we probably will be watching that rugby match from the couch but hopefully we are not watching it from the couch," Oostuizen said with a broad beam. "Yeah, it is a bit weird.
"We had a very good match the other day against France, going through to the semifinals," he added, referring to South Africa's 29-28 victory over hosts France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash last Sunday. "It's going to be brutal to miss it if we are on the golf course but I'm sure we'll be watching it after the round any way!"