LIV Adelaide: Cameron Smith and his Ripper GC win first-ever team playoff

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Cameron Smith sat on a stool on Saturday night after surging into contention at the LIV Adelaide event and was unequivocal that a team win would trump any individual victory.

But among the many wishes Smith and his all-Aussie team have been granted this week a second playoff hole, after two horrible 18th hole swings in succession from the captain, was the greatest of all as he and Marc Leishman combined to deliver an unforgettable Ripper GC victory in a drama-filled first ever LIV team playoff.

Untameable crowd noise, which hardly dropped even as the final shots were played, was the soundtrack for two pars second time around from Smith and Leishman which finally delivered a win to savour.

“This is a unreal, a dream come true. We wanted it so much,” Smith said.

“We’ve been talking about it all year. It’s such a different way to think about golf. Especially for us, I think, because we’re all such good mates,

“There’s a couple of teams that don’t quite get along as well as what we do. But doing something for your mates is special.”

The Aussie outfit led by as many as six-shots in regulation before the South African quartet who make up Stinger GC came from the clouds to force Smith into a must-make final hole putt to avoid the team showdown.

But the Ripper GC’s skipper’s putter, having had to come from the scrub after an errant drive, let him down at the worst time on an enthralling Sunday when American Brendan Steele held on to score a one-shot individual win.

That victory, however, was overshadowed by the team battle, something unique to LIV, and normally a sideshow to the main event for most watchers. 

But not at The Grange where Smith, given his third chance to hit a good shot on the 18th tee in the space of an hour, having fluffed his lines in the first playoff hole after thousands of fans had to be cleared, drilled his driver down the middle.

Leishman revealed this week he only joined LIV because Smith did, and Smith only confirmed his decision because Leishman said it seemed like a good idea.

It took a lengthy discussion before the playoff to determine the duo would team up, despite Lucas Hebert closing with a seven-under 67, and Smith’s driving woes, to try and secure the win which seemed theirs an hour earlier.

Given the second chance in the playoff, after clutch putts delivered the Aussies two pars first time around, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Dean Burmester both flew the green, their balls touching in the back bunker, one needing to mark his in a rare sight.

Only one of the duo got out, as the hyped-up crowd created an unbelievable din of noise, heckling the South Africans before, and after, their shots, with bogeys from both gifting Smith’s team a sensational victory.

“I think today for myself it was about digging deep. I didn’t really have my best stuff out there, but we did it in that first playoff hole,” Smith said.

“It was such a cool day. There was such a mix of emotions. Then when you throw the team stuff in there, as well, you really want to dig deep and really do it for everyone else.”

After making just one birdie in his opening nine holes, Smith made crucial par putt to aid the birdies being dropped elsewhere by Matt Jones, Leishman and Herbert before a late rally put a “massive” Sunday night celebration in their sights.

The Aussies combined to shoot 20-under on Sunday, but Stinger bettered that with 24-under, both teams reaching the best ever team score in LIV’s three year history.

As Smith narrowly missed a birdie putt on the 12th hole, the ”Watering Hole”, eliciting anguished cries from the boisterous grandstands, Herbert made one on the 18th, to give Ripper GC the lead as the team tally become the main focus.

That’s when the skipper Smith got hot, birdies on 13 and 14 pushing his team past 50-under – the previous LIV team record was 49-under – and a five-shot lead.

Ripper GC had only hoisted the team trophy once before and in 2024, after adding Herbert as a replacement for Jed Morgan who lost his LIV place, had managed a best finish of third.

But Adelaide has been on their collective minds for 12 months, with new strategies designed to cope with the burden of expectation, and their own enormous desire to win on home soil fuelled the final day fire.

Winning demanded all the tricks too, including a staggering rescue by Leishman from in the trees beside the fourth fairway.

He had to scrub his second shot out, found the green, then made a snaking 10m putt to snatch a staggering birdie which proved critical.

Herbert was arguably the most impressive for the Aussies, bouncing back from an opening round 73, when his score didn’t even count for his team, carding back-to-back rounds of seven-under 65 on Saturday and Sunday, with his birdie on the fifth hole, his second last of the day, crucial in the final result.

FINAL LEADERBOARD

18- under – Brendan Steele

17- under – Louis Oosthuizen

16- under – Jon Rahm, Charl Schwartzel, Dean Burmester, Andy Ogletree, Joaquin Niemann

THE AUSSIES

14-under – Matt Jones

13-under – Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert

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