Abraham Ancer coughs up big lead, barely hangs on to win LIV Hong Kong; Joaquin Niemann continues hot form

March 10, 2024

Eurasia Sport Images

Abraham Ancer was seemingly on cruise control after two rounds a LIV Golf’s Hong Kong stop, shooting 63-62 to lead by five shots heading into the final round at Hong Kong Golf Club.

But a poor start, where he was two over par after eight holes, coupled with a few birdie runs by those chasing him and the runaway quickly became a race in which up to seven different players had a shot at victory.

Paul Casey birdied four of his last seven holes, including a hole out from a bunker on the 16th hole, his 17th of the day. He shot 64. Cameron Smith was steady from beginning to end to shoot four-under 66. Ancer sputtered and shot two-over 72 and joined the two others in the three-man playoff, all ending at 13 under par for the week.

Ultimately, Ancer held on when he hit an approach to four feet on the first playoff hole to capture his first LIV Golf victory, making him the 14th different player to win in the league’s three-year existence. He took home the $4 million first-place prize.

“It was definitely a grind,” Ancer said. “I made it a lot more stressful than I envisioned it. I didn't have my best ball-striking. It was very polar opposite of the first two rounds. Off the tee and my fairway and second shots wasn't quite there. But I was really happy. Mentally I dug deep. I had to. That round could have definitely been going south very, very quickly

“Unfortunately, didn't have any birdies coming in, but it was good enough to get in a playoff, and then I hit two good-quality golf shots there to finish it off, and it felt nice. It felt really good because that was a very stressful round.”

Casey, starting on the 17th hole in the shotgun format, made two birdies early, but then rattled off seven straight pars. He then made birdies at 11, 12, 13 and the bunker hole out at 16 to tie Ancer. He was eight shots back to start the final round.

“Some great golf,” Casey said. “I'm not going to measure it on the playoff hole, on one tee shot, something like that. It was a really good week.”

Casey was part of the Crushers team that took home $3 million by winning the team portion of the event. Bryson DeChambeau, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri are his teammates. They shot 35 under for the week to top Joaquin Niemann’s Torque team by two shots.

Speaking of Niemann, he remains one of the hottest players in the world. He hasn’t finished worth than fifth place in any of his last four starts that received World Ranking points, including a victory at the Australian Open in December. He’s also won two of LIV Golf’s first three events of the year—the opening event at Mayakoba in a four-hole playoff against Sergio Garcia, the second last week in Saudi Arabia.

In Hong Kong, Niemann was well back after two rounds, shooting 67-68, but came out firing on Sunday. His round of 63 included seven birdies and a hole-in-one on the 189-yard, par-3 eighth hole. He tied for fourth place with Carlos Ortiz, just one shot behind Ancer. He was awarded an invitation to play in the Masters two weeks ago.

Anthony Kim showed progress in his second competitive tournament back in nearly 12 years. Last week in Saudi Arabia was a rough start, and he didn’t play particularly well in shooting 76-72 the first two days in Hong Kong, but he made seven birdies, against only two bogeys in the final round to shoot five-under 65.

“I just kept doing what I've been working on the last two months,” Kim said. “Obviously being away from the game for so long, it's been tough to practice and get all the things that I need to get prepared for the tournament, but I'm working on the right things at this moment.”