Seeking his first professional win in nearly eight years, Danny Lee had a makeable birdie attempt on the second hole of Sunday’s playoff at LIV Golf Tucson. When he missed the putt, he muttered to himself, “What have you done, you idiot.”
Lee didn’t dwell on the missed opportunity, though. With a chance to win the individual title on the third playoff hole, the Iron Heads GC member rolled in the birdie putt at The Gallery Golf Club to claim the individual title in just his second start since joining the LIV Golf League.
The South Korean-born Lee, who represents New Zealand, defeated Carlos Ortiz (Fireballs GC), Brendan Steele (HyFlyers GC) and Louis Oosthuizen (Stinger GC) in the second playoff in LIV Golf history. The last time Lee won, in 2015, he also won in a four-man playoff.
“Maybe it was a coincidence, I don’t know,” the 32-year-old Lee said. “But it feels pretty amazing right now.”
In the team competition, Fireballs GC, captained by Sergio Garcia, won by four strokes over 4Aces GC, with Lee’s Iron Heads GC claiming third for the team’s first-ever podium finish. The Fireballs become just the second team to claim multiple titles, having won last year at the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok.
The Fireballs were fueled by Ortiz’s 6-under 65, the best round of the day and an impressive one, given the challenging conditions for the majority of the final round due to wind gusts above 20 mph. At one point, the Fireballs led by 12 strokes before the 4Aces rallied late to close the gap.
Ortiz’s low round put him in the playoff, but he was eliminated with a bogey on the first extra hole.
“Obviously, super-excited about getting another team win after last year in Bangkok, and super-proud of all of them,” Garcia said. “Especially Carlos, the way he played today. Shame he couldn’t get the individual win. But what a great effort.”
Besides Ortiz’s round, the other two Fireballs counting scores belonged to Abraham Ancer (1-over 72) and Sergio Garcia (2-over 73).
“We felt like we didn’t play very good at all,” Ancer said, “but Carlos definitely bailed us out today. We did a really good job to play good at the right times as a team, and that’s what got us the trophy.”
Said Ortiz, who finished second last year in his LIV Golf debut in Portland: “I think I did a good job of taking advantage of the easy holes, and I just tried to hold on on the hard holes. I think days like this are easy to move up the leaderboard if you shoot low, and I just did a good job today.”
While the Spanish-speaking Fireballs controlled the team leaderboard down the stretch, multiple players had a chance to seize control of the individual leaderboard.
Second-round leader Marc Leishman opened the door with bogeys in two of his first three holes. Charles Howell III, the individual winner in the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba, opened with an eagle and was 4 under through his first six holes. At one point, he held a two-shot lead but a triple bogey at the par-3 eighth brought him back to the pack.
Ortiz was making his run with five birdies in his first nine holes before suffering a double bogey at the 10th.
Eventually, Oosthuizen – captain of the all-South African Stinger GC – became the front-runner. But he suffered three bogeys in a four-hole stretch late in the round. When he bogeyed the par-3 16th, there was a four-way tie for the lead.
Lee, Steele and Ortiz each finished at 9 under, while Oosthuizen, playing in the lead group, was 8 under after a bogey at the par-5 17th. But he knocked his approach shot close into 18 and made the birdie putt to join the playoff.
From there, it took three more trips through the 18th hole for Lee to post the only birdie of the playoff – and make his long-awaited return to the winner’s circle.
“I haven’t won since 2015. I just felt like winning is just not my thing, but today just changed that,” Lee said. “It’s just good to see I’m capable of playing some good golf again.”