Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Jun 20 2024
- 4 MIN
Oosthuizen Stinger preview Nashville STORY image

COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – The return to action by captain Louis Oosthuizen for this week's LIV Golf Nashville at The Grove will certainly be a major boost for Stinger GC after its disappointing showing in Texas earlier this month.

Add to that the fact that this week is something of a home game for the four South Africans, who also happen to be big country music fans, and the stars certainly seem to be aligned nicely for them ahead of Friday's opening round.

"We love it here," Branden Grace, a club member at The Grove who one month ago moved to nearby Franklin with his family, said on Thursday. "We love the people. We're all big fans of country music, the whole vibe. Tennessee is everything we could have dreamt of. We're loving it here.

"This week is technically a home game for us. I'm a member here at The Grove, and I played here for the first time last week. It's a great place, a great state. Greg (Norman) and his team did a marvelous job out here."

The Grove, which was designed by LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman, opened in 2012 and this week makes Tennessee the 12th different state to host a LIV Golf tournament.

Grace and Dean Burmester are both big Chris Stapleton fans while Oosthuizen, who had to withdraw before the start of the second round in Houston due to a lower back injury. counts Eric Church as his favorite country music singer-songwriter.

After taking most of last week off to recover, Oosthuizen is now itching to get back into action with his team mates.

"I got to the golf course, and I couldn't even get in my set-up position properly," Oosthuizen said of his withdrawal at LIV Golf Houston. "I knew it was going to be a case of trying to play and I would have probably made one shot or two shots and then walked off. It was an easy decision for me at the end.

"I've had this back issue for a long time - five, six, seven years ago where something like that happened. It was a strange one, but I'm all good. I'm ready to go this week. I played Saturday last week, nine holes, and it felt okay. Then I played with the boys on Tuesday, and it's all good."

In Oosthuizen's absence, the Stingers ended their week in Houston placed 11th out of 13. Schwartzel closed with a 69 to finish in a tie for 18th at 5-under, level with the long-hitting Burmester, who carded a 70. Grace wound up 52nd after signing off with a 74. Oosthuizen's spot for the final two rounds was filled by reserve player Wade Ormsby, who returned scores of 73 and 71 in his two outings.

"Louis has been playing so good for the last eight months, so losing a guy like that that's so consistent and plays well, that's always a setback," said Schwartzel. "But I've known him for 30 years. He's always had that little thing with his back. It's not the first time it's happened. It's not serious.

"We had a good go in Houston, but I'm sure everybody just didn't have their 'A' games, either. Losing Louis was a bummer, but then none of us that played had our 'A' games."

All that after a somewhat hit-and-miss 2024 season for the Stingers highlighted by three podium finishes and tarnished by four results of ninth or worse in eight tournaments prior to this week.

Their best performance was a runner-up spot in Adelaide, where they were agonizingly beaten in a playoff for the title by Ripper GC, while their lowest moment came in Las Vegas, where they struggled in surprisingly cold temperatures before finishing 12th out of 13. The last time the Stingers tasted team victory was just over a year ago - at LIV Golf Tulsa in May 2023 - so they are long overdue success.

Burmester has been their standout player while producing superb golf over the past seven months, winning consecutive tournaments co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour in South Africa late last year and then clinching his first LIV Golf individual victory in Miami in early April. His tie for 18th in Houston was his sixth consecutive top-20 finish.

"Having that 'home' feel in the team environment, and the vibe that we have helps us feed off each other," said Burmester, who enjoyed a memorable evening in the Broadway entertainment district on Wednesday listening to country music while wearing a white cowboy hat and sipping on bourbon. "Last year I had a pretty good season. Branden had a really strong season. It was nice to kind of feed off him.

"Having that team support, wanting to win for yourself but also with the team, kind of drives you to keep practicing and keep grinding it out and getting better. I can contribute just being happy as a whole."

Oosthuizen agreed: "Being part of a team, it drives you a little bit more. You do get down on yourself, but you've got three strong guys to really pick you up and motivate you to keep on going. It's all about the team setup and environment. I know I love it, and I think the boys love it, as well."