Oct 9th, 2022
Chacarra storms ahead at LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok
Young Spaniard leads by five and helps Fireballs GC go clear
Photography: LIV Golf
It wasn’t working. So coming into this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok, the 22-year-old from Spain returned to his college mindset of simply having fun and avoiding bogeys.
Through two rounds at Stonehill, he’s been highly successful on both counts. Tying a LIV Golf record with a nine-under 63, Chacarra opened up a five-stroke lead at 16 under and has yet to make a bogey through 36 holes. The field’s youngest golfer, Chacarra is just 18 holes away from a spectacular breakthrough victory.
“Just try to have fun and then play to not make bogeys,” said Chacarra, who tied Dustin Johnson for the lowest LIV Golf round in relation to par. “Kind of play smart on the course – and that’s what I’ve started doing this week.”
The closest pursuers to Chacarra are a group of four players at 11 under: Richard Bland, Sihwan Kim, Harold Varner III and Patrick Reed. The 5-stroke lead is the largest after any round in LIV Golf’s inaugural season.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final round, Bland said, “Going to need a low one and a little bit of help. But the way he played today, it doesn’t look like he’s gonna give us any, so we’ve got to go get him.”
In addition to the healthy individual lead, Chacarra’s Fireballs GC have a substantial lead in the team competition. Adding Carlos Ortiz’s 65 and Abraham Ancer’s 68 to Chacarra’s 63, the Fireballs shot 20 under in the second round and are at 34 under, putting them 7 shots ahead of Niblicks GC. Cleeks GC is in third place, another shot back, with five other teams within six shots of a podium spot.
Fireballs GC captain Sergio Garcia has seen his team finish in the money twice this season, both times in third place. But he’d like to enjoy the champagne celebration exclusive to the winners on Sunday, even as he manages an injured left knee that has limited his effectiveness this week.
“There's not much that we need to change,” Garcia said of his team’s approach. “Obviously I think everyone is playing well. I'll give my everything tomorrow to put a good round and kind of grind my teeth a little bit through the process of getting through this left knee. But other than that, I think they're all doing amazing, and we just have to keep doing more of that.”
Garcia has 36 professional wins, including the 2017 Masters. Chacarra, of course, is looking for his first pro victory. A win on Sunday will be worth $4 million in the individual purse, more than Garcia made for any of his victories.
Asked if he had any advice for his young countryman on how to handle the overnight lead, Garcia just shook his head.
“Nothing. Just keep doing what he's doing,” Garcia said. “He's doing great. Keep believing in himself, keep being positive like he's been all week. He knows what to do. He's good to go.”
As for Chacarra, he is not only having fun but enjoying the on-site support of his mother, his aunt, a cousin, one of his good friends, and his long-time coach, who just began traveling with him. He’ll also enter the final round with a perspective appropriate for a young golfer just starting a promising career.
“Winning is always fun, but I’m not focused on winning,” Chacarra said. “Just focused on getting better.”
Branden Grace entered Saturday with a share of the lead and a chance to catch Dustin Johnson atop the season-long individual points race.
Three holes into his round, he was forced to withdraw with an acute muscle strain on his left side, leaving his status in doubt for next week’s event in Jeddah, where the Individual Champion will be decided and its $30 million purse distributed to the top three players.
It was a cruel blow for the 34-year-old South African, the winner in Portland and one of the most consistent performers this inaugural season. It’s also a tough blow for his all-South African Stinger GC team, which loses its top performer and will finish the Bangkok event by counting the scores of each of its remaining three players. The Stingers are last on the team leaderboard after two rounds.
“He’s been playing such great golf,” said teammate Shaun Norris. “Hitting the ball well. Been playing practice rounds with him and really impressed with the way he’s playing. Hopefully he gets back to it and healthy as soon as possible.”
Grace managed to birdie the first hole but felt something wrong with his tee shot on the second hole. He parred the hole but was in obvious pain. He played the par-3 third but was attended to by his physiotherapist Cornel Driessen and a local medical crew after putting out. He was then taken off property to a medical facility for an MRI.
“It’s very likely a strained intercostal muscle or oblique muscle,” Driessen said. “If he keeps on swinging, it makes it worse. We don’t want to risk long-time injury or damage.”
In addition to the individual stroke-play competition, players are also competing as four-man teams during LIV Golf events. Starting with LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok, the best three scores in Round 1, the best three scores in Round 2, and the best three scores in Round 3 will combine to produce the team score. The previous counting-score format was 2-2-3.
The total team prize money for each event is $5 million, with the winning team dividing $3 million, second place dividing $1.5 million and third place dividing $500,000 among its four team members.
In addition, teams are vying for seeds going into the Team Championship in Miami, the final event of the inaugural season with a $50 million purse. Teams have received points for their finishes in each event, and the top four teams in the points standings after next week’s event in Jeddah receive day one byes in Miami.
1. Fireballs GC, 34 under (Eugenio Chacarra 63, Carlos Ortiz 65, Abraham Ancer 68)
2. Niblicks GC, 27 under (James Piot 65, Harold Varner III 66, Turk Pettit 68)
3. Cleeks GC, 26 under (Laurie Canter 66, Richard Bland 68, Martin Kaymer 69)
4. Iron Heads GC, 24 under (Sihwan Kim 66, Kevin Na 68, Sadom Kaewkanjana 69)
5. Crushers GC, 23 under (Paul Casey 65, Charles Howell III 67. Bryson DeChambeau 68)
T-6. 4 Aces GC, 22 under (Patrick Reed 65, Talor Gooch 67, Dustin Johnson 70)
T-6. Smash GC, 22 under (Brooks Koepka 67, Peter Uihlein 68, Chase Koepka 69)
8. Majesticks GC, 20 under (Lee Westwood 66, Ian Poulter 70, Sam Horsfield 70)
9. Punch GC, 18 under (Wade Ormsby 68, Marc Leishman 69, Matt Jones 70)
10. Hy Flyers GC, 17 under (Matthew Wolff 66, Cameron Tringale 68, Bernd Wiesberger 69)
11. Torque GC, 13 under (Jediah Morgan 69. Joaquin Niemann 71, Hideto Tanihara 72)
12. Stinger GC, 12 under (Shaun Norris 69, Louis Oosthuizen 72, Charl Schwartzel 73)