Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Jeddah

Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Jeddah

Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Jeddah

Two events are in the books, and there has been plenty of action to talk about. Big offseason acquisition Jon Rahm finished third and eighth in Mayakoba and Las Vegas, respectively, and helped his team, Legion XIII, win the first team event in Mexico. 4Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson is coming off his third LIV Golf victory after finishing 12 under in Las Vegas and currently sits first in the individual standings ahead of Mayakoba winner and Torque GC captain Joaquin Niemann, who received an invitation to play in this year's Masters. And it's crowded at the top of the team standings with Legion XIII, Crushers GC and Smash GC rounding out the top three squads. Still, perhaps the biggest topic of discussion heading into Jeddah on March 1 centers on a player who hasn't played professionally in 12 years.

Anthony Kim, who last played in 2012, is joining the LIV Golf League as a wild card and is making his debut at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia. The 38-year-old Kim burst onto the scene when he turned professional and won three tournaments before sustaining an Achilles injury in 2012. He's shown up sparingly at charity golf events but has otherwise stayed away from competitive play, and his return marks the first time Kim has played a professional event in 12 years.

Let's get back to the current roster, though, and look at several players looking to make a push following the three-week break. Several LIV golfers participated in the $2 million International Series Oman, including Torque GC's Carlos Ortiz, who won the event after a 7-under 65 in the final round to finish the tournament at 19 under. Niemann co-led with Ortiz heading into the final round and finished third in the tournament behind Stingers GC captain Louis Oosthuizen. Other notable placements in Oman include Torque GC Mito Pereira (T4), RangeGoats GC teammates Peter Uihlein (sixth) and Matthew Wolff (T7), and Fireballs GC David Puig (T-10th), who won the $1 million IRS Prima Malaysian Open and earned a spot in the 2024 Open Championship.

The LIV Golf League returns to Jeddah for the third time, though fans will note that this year's event is much earlier in the schedule than in previous seasons. The trek to Saudi Arabia had previously taken place in mid-October as the penultimate tournament before the championship event in Miami, and it served as the final chance for players looking to lock in a spot in the LIV Golf League for the following season. Smash GC captain Brooks Koepka is the two-time defending champion at Royals Greens Golf & Country Club, with both victories requiring a playoff. In last year's tournament, Talor Gooch -- then a member of RangeGoats GC -- surged to a second-place finish after an 8-under final round, and while he lost to Koepka in the playoff, Gooch's performance in Jeddah helped him secure the Individual Champion crown and a cool $18 million bonus. 

In lieu of Ryan Andrade, here are my picks for this weekend's event in Jeddah.

Captains (2)

Brooks Koepka

It would be difficult to leave Koepka off this list, given that he won the previous two Jeddah events dating back to 2022. He sits ninth in the individual standings after finishing T5 and T12 in Mayakoba and Las Vegas, respectively, and he helped Smash GC capture the team event in the last event. Over the first two events of the season, Koepka ranks T4 in GIR (71.3 percent), seventh in scrambling rate (70.97 percent) and T11 in average birdies per round (4.33).

Dustin Johnson

Johnson finished sixth at Jeddah in both 2022 and 2023, and he is coming off a one-stroke victory over Talor Gooch in Las Vegas. Johnson's fairway accuracy was in the bottom half of the field over the first two LIV events (45.24 percent - T38), but he co-leads with Ripper GC captain Cameron Smith in birdies per round (5.17), is T3 in average putts per hole (1.48) and eighth in driving distance (302.2 yards). 

Others to consider: Sergio Garcia (he finished T3 in both 2022 and 2023, and ranks second in scrambling (74.19 percent) behind Talor Gooch), Jon Rahm (he's third in GIR (72.22 percent) and fifth in both scrambling (73.33 percent) and birdies per round (4.67).

Non-Captains (5)

Paul Casey

Casey finds himself in seventh place in the individual standings after finishes of T11 and T5 over the past two events. He's in the top 10 in the majority of statistical categories, sitting second in GIR (73.15 percent), T6 in fairway accuracy (55.95 percent) and T7 in birdies per round (4.5).

Matthew Wolff

Wolff took the momentum from his 3-under final round in Mayakoba and translated that into a fourth-place finish in Las Vegas on the strength of a 5-under opening round. He's in the middle of the pack in most stats, but he is T3 in driving distance (305.6 yards) and T7 in average putts (1.5) -- both of which should translate nicely in Jeddah.

Tyrrell Hatton

Like teammate and Legion XIII captain Rahm, Hatton has had respectable outings of T8 and T12 in his first two LIV Golf tournaments, with his best moment coming in the final round at Mayakoba when he notched a 7-under 64. He ranks T7 in average putts (1.5), ninth in scrambling (69.23 percent) and T13 in average birdies (4.17).

Sebastian Munoz

Munoz had a disappointing T40 finish in last year's event in Jeddah, but he's had a good start to the 2024 season, including a T9 finish in Las Vegas. He's tied for fifth with Rahm in birdies per round (4.67) and is T9 in GIR (70.37 percent).

Caleb Surratt

Another Legion XIII player makes this list in Surratt, thanks to his consistent play over the first two events in which he posted a pair of top 15s. He's T3 in birdies per round (4.83), 12th in driving distance (299.8 yards) and T14 in average putts (1.56).

Others to consider - Talor Gooch and Peter Uihlein, both of whom finished with a share of second place in Las Vegas.

Teams (2)

Smash GC

The only team in Las Vegas that scored better than even in the final round, the foursome combined for a 10-under finish to capture the team event. Graeme McDowell helped with that final-round push with a 5-under 65 to surge into a share for fifth place in the individual event, while Gooch shot a 3-under 67 to finish T2. Captain Koepka, of course, will be looking for a three-peat in the individual event and back-to-back wins in the team event.

RangeGoats GC

After a disappointing 11th-place finish in Mayakoba, RangeGoats GC bounced back in Las Vegas and co-led with 4Aces GC heading into the final round. Bubba Watson's team ultimately wasn't able to hold on down the stretch, but there's plenty of optimism that RangeGoats GC can continue their success in Jeddah after top-15 finishes from Peter Uihlein (T2) Matthew Wolff (fourth) and Watson (T15) in Vegas.

Others to consider: 4Aces GC (second-place finish in Las Vegas), Crushers GC (the only team to finish fourth or better in both events).

Sleepers (4)

Adrian Meronk

Bounced back from a 47th-place finish in Mayakoba to finish T9 in Las Vegas. 

Richard Bland

Two top-15 finishes to start the season -- including a T11 at Mayakoba with strong performances in the first and third round -- and is T4 in GIR (71.3 percent).

Kieran Vincent

Vincent hasn't had a great start to the 2024 season, but he did finish T3 in Jeddah last year after going 12 under over the final two rounds.

Jason Kokrak

Kokrak struggled in Mayakoba but rebounded in Las Vegas with a 5-under opening round and finished the tournament T5. 

Others to consider: Anthony Kim (because a tournament win following a 12-year absence from professional golf would make for an excellent screenplay).

Pick to Win

Brooks Koepka

Koepka makes LIV Golf history as the first player to win the same event three straight years, all while helping lead Smash GC to a second consecutive victory in the team event. Rounding out the top five are Jon Rahm, Talor Gooch, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cullum Brownbridge
Cullum is a RotoWire contributor for the NFL, NBA, MLB and Golf. He is irrationally pessimistic about his favorite sports teams.
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