STINGER GC HAS HIGH HOPES FOR 2024, AND ALSO FOR MAYAKOBA
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – As Stinger GC heads into this week's season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camaleon, the all-South African combination has lofty expectations while living up to the maxim: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
One of only three teams in the LIV Golf League who have made no personnel changes since last year, the Stingers are in an upbeat mood over their prospects for 2024 after finishing fifth in the final team points standings last season.
They also have good memories of LIV Golf Mayakoba from last year when they were able to celebrate a fourth-place finish, along with a third spot for Branden Grace on the individual leaderboard.
"We played solid throughout last year," said Dean 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 let quite a few chances slip, kind of in the middle of the season. We should have finished second a couple of times but we ended up with thirds, and a couple of other things.
"But 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 can reflect back on a successful 2023 campaign that featured one team win in Tulsa, a runner-up spot and four third-place finishes in 13 starts.
Grace ended the regular season placed ninth place in the individual standings, with Burmester 14th, team captain Louis Oosthuizen 24th and Charl Schwartzel 38th. Grace recorded five top-10s during 2023, Burmester five, Oosthuizen three and Schwartzel one.
Giving the all-South African combination an added boost heading into this year has been the superb offseason form displayed by Burmester and Oosthuizen, who each won consecutive tournaments co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour.
The long-hitting Burmester clinched his 10th career professional title at the Joburg Open in November, winning by three shots after closing with a superb 6-under 64. That victory earned him a spot in this year's Open Championship at Royal Troon, and the following week he made it back-to-back titles with a three-stroke win at the Investec South African Open.
"Back-to-back – I've never done that before so that was special," said Burmester, who shot a final-round 4-under 68 to clinch the South African Open crown. "It's obviously one as a South African that I've always wanted to win...to be the S.A. Open champion is something I'll never forget. It's a tournament I watched growing up and I watched a lot of legends."
Oosthuizen emulated Burmester over the next fortnight, winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship by two strokes over his Stinger GC teammate Schwartzel at Leopard Creek before clinching the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open - also by two shots - just seven days later.
"I've never gone back-to-back in my life before, so it's a big dream to be able to do that, and then having my family with me for the first time when I've won in my career is very special," said Oosthuizen.
Grace, meanwhile, will also have lofty hopes for Mexico after finishing third in the tournament last year. Just under 12 months ago, he opened with a 3-under 68 on Day 1 and another 68 followed on Day 2 before he closed with a five-birdie 67 to earn himself third place at 10-under 203 and a welcome spot on the podium.
"I was really happy with my play all week to get a podium finish," Grace said of his form last year. "It's just amazing how things have progressed for us as a team since then, how happy we are, how we're enjoying golf, how we're enjoying the environment. Everything is just getting stronger and better in LIV Golf. The teams are stronger now and there are more guys coming in to make it even stronger. It's great to be here."