Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Chicago
Eleven events down and just three more to go in 2023, including the season-ending Team Championship in Miami. The LIV Golf League season has been highlighted by three victories from Talor Gooch and two wins by Cameron Smith.
The Aussie tops the individual points standings by 21 points over Gooch, while Patrick Reed sits third 50 points behind and is hoping to get his first career LIV Golf win. On the team side of things, 4Aces GC are once again showing the way, but it is only a nine-point lead over Torque GC, who has a league-best four team wins this season. The South African squad of Stinger GC sits third in the team standings just 16 points back after three straight podium finishes.
This week LIV Golf returns to Rich Harvest Farms for the second time after Smith won last fall by three strokes over Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein. Johnson's 4Aces captured the team victory by one stroke over Brooks Koepka's Smash GC.
Rich Harvest Farms has hosted several other big events through the years, including the 2009 Solheim Cup and the 2017 NCAA Championships. The course features several tree-lined holes along with some intimidating water hazards that players will need to avoid. It will be a difficult test that will stretch this par-71 over 7,400 yards. Add in a potentially firm and fast golf course and getting a lot of good birdie chances may not be in the cards.
How to Play
Those of you who have been playing along in LIV Golf's fantasy game, good luck in your pursuit of one of the season-long prizes. To those of you who are new and looking to get involved, there is certainly still time to join and win one of the event prizes for LIV Chicago, LIV Jeddah, and LIV Miami. Let's take a brief look for beginners at how to play the final two regular-season tournaments in LIV Golf Fantasy.
Each player will select four golfers, a substitute, and a LIV Golf team to enter. The top three golfers will make up your score for each round along with your LIV Golf team score to par. You can use your substitute golfer to move in for rounds two and three if you choose and he will be eligible to earn scores for your team in a given round should he be among the top-three scores top par in that round.
LIV Golf Fantasy also limits your usage to one captain for each event roster. So, you wouldn't be able to take a team with Smith, Koepka, and DeChambeau for example. You also cannot select more than two players from the same LIV Golf Team to be on your roster. The fantasy team with the best score to par after three rounds will win that event.
For this week and next month's LIV Golf Jeddah, I'll break down the top captains, non-captains, LIV Golf teams, and sleepers to use. Below are the top options for Chicago.
Smith likely will be the most popular captain's selection because he's the defending champ in Chicago and also won LIV Golf's most recent tournament at Bedminster. That being said, I'm really zeroing in on DeChambeau as my captain to use this week. The 2020 U.S. Open champion picked up a win at the Greenbrier and has been among the top American players regardless of tour by strokes gained over the last three months. We know how powerful DeChambeau is off the tee; he also ranks top-15 in GIR percentage and putting average this season. He went 69-70-71 to finish T8 last year at Rich Harvest Farms and he should be able to feast on the par 5s.
Johnson makes another fine pick as a captain for LIV Chicago. While 2023 hasn't been quite as impressive for Johnson as 2022, he still has a win in Tulsa among seven top-15 finishes this season. Johnson is also top-5 in driving distance and GIR percentage and will have plenty of opportunities to score, as he's second in birdie average.
Gooch has been the most complete player all season. He leads LIV in scrambling, ranks fifth in driving accuracy, seventh in GIR percentage, and is ninth in putting average. There's a reason why he has three wins and just one finish outside the top-22 in 11 starts this season. Gooch didn't have the greatest showing a year ago at Rich Harvest Farms, but he is a much better player now. The tougher the course plays, the more it favors a real grinder like Gooch who won't put himself in bad positions.
There are a number of solid non-captains to choose from at Rich Harvest Farms, but one of the most intriguing to me is Pereira. The Chilean tops LIV Golf this season in GIR percentage at just over 74 percent. That type of laser iron play will come in handy, especially if things firm up. Pereira also ranks seventh in driving distance, which will help carry some more of the trouble around Rich Harvest Farms. Pereira scored his best finish of the season last month at Greenbrier when he finished second, one of five top-six finishes this season.
Burmester has been a model of consistency since joining LIV and is coming off an eighth at Greenbrier and a fifth at Bedminster. The South African also put up top-16 finishes at two recent Asian Tour events that many LIV players competed in. He has the power I'm looking for around Rich Harvest Farms at second to only Peter Uihlein in driving distance this season. Burmester is also just outside the top-10 in putting average this season, which could make for an exciting combination.
Steele was routinely one of the most consistent drivers during his years on tour and that should serve him well at Rich Harvest Farms. On top of that, he is hitting just over 73% of the greens in regulation this season on LIV, which ranks fourth best. It really will just come down to the putter for Steele. If he has a good week on the greens, this pick could pay off massively for your team. Steele has finished 10th and 13th the last two events.
Uihlein had a fantastic start to the season with five straight top-11 finishes but has struggled in his last few events and slid back to 14th in the standings. Rich Harvest Farms should be a great place to break out of that slump due to the massive advantage he has off the tee. Uihlein currently tops the league in driving distance by seven yards over the next closest competitor. This course fits his eye obviously after a strong runner-up showing a year ago.
I've already mentioned how much I like Pereira this week. Add into that captain Joaquin Niemann coming off his best finish of the LIV season of seventh and the fact he finished T4 at Rich Harvest Farms last year. David Puig is coming into his own with a fourth at LIV Greenbrier and has finished T4-T14-T11 at recent Asian Tour events. Sebastian Munoz is another good fit for this course, ranking top-12 in fairways and greens in regulation. This team has a ton of firepower, and it really is no surprise they have won four events this season.
The Fireballs are another team with players trending in the right direction. Abraham Ancer is coming off a podium at Bedminster, while Eugenio Chacarra won the recent St Andrews Bay Championship on the Asian Tour. The team's two most consistent players through much of the season have been Carlos Ortiz and Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard is still among the best iron players and finished T4 a year ago at Rich Harvest Farms. Ortiz has eight top-20 finishes in 11 starts this season and can really get it going on the greens.
In any fantasy game, one of the biggest separators is the value you can find on sleepers. These are players we expect to carry low ownership and have the potential to significantly outperform their current position in the LIV Golf League standings. Here are a few options to consider in Chicago as potential substitutes for your roster.
Paul Casey - Ranks third in GIR percentage and seventh in driving accuracy, finished T21 last year at Rich Harvest Farms.
Richard Bland - Finished 11th-or-better in three straight events, ranks third in driving accuracy and seventh in putting average.
Laurie Canter - Finished in the top half of the field in five of his last six starts, scored a T8 last year at Rich Harvest Farms.
Jason Kokrak - Ranks top-12 in driving distance, GIR percentage and birdie average, finished T4 at International Series England.