Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta



LIV Golf

LIV Golf Promotions ends in crazy playoff packed with a drop discussion, a topped shot and night lights

December 10, 2023
/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2023/12/liv-golf-promotions-2023-three-winners.jpg

Jinichiro Kozuma, Kalle Samooja and Kieran Vincent, along with their caddies, pose after playing their way on to the 2024 LIV Golf League with their finishes at the LIV Golf Promotions event on Sunday (Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf).

It had a rules question. It had a clutch putt. It had a topped shot.

It had lights?

Indeed, the finish to the inaugural LIV Golf Promotions event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club had plenty of everything, much of it a bit bizarre. Maybe that should have been expected given the stakes involved: The top three finishers would earn spots in the 2024 LIV Golf League. Considering the 48th-place finisher on the 2023 LIV points list cashed $1.5 million, there was a lot financially on the line for the 20 pros playing the 36-hole finale.

Kalle Samooja, a 35-year-old from Finland who needed almost a decade to earn a DP World Tour card, then claimed his one and only title in 2022, walked away the medalist at eight under par; he shot 65-71 on Sunday, with birdies on his the last two holes to take top honors. But three players—Kieran Vincent, Jinichiro Kozuma and Laurie Canter—tied for second at seven under, resulting in a playoff to determine who would claim the other two spots.

On the first extra hole, the par-5 18th, Kozuma, a 29-year-old from Japan, pushed his drive right, the ball ending up in a lake. As Kozuma was looking to take his drop, Canter appeared to question where he was looking.

"It looks like we've got a little controversy on the right, Laurie Canter doesn't seem to agree where JK about where that ball crossed the margin of the penalty area," said Jerry Foltz during the broadcast. He later noted: "It looked like Canter was not happy with where they were looking at to begin with."

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2023/12/liv-golf-promotions-2023-drop-discussion-screen-shot.jpg

After a five-plus-minute discussion, which included a rules official and also Vincent, Kozuma took a drop about 25 yards farther back than his intial spot.

Kozuma hit his third shot into the rough about 50 yards short of the green and then hit his fourth to roughly 12 feet, leaving himself this tricky par putt.

Vincent, a 26-year-old from Zimbabwe, was also in a tough spot off the tee, punched out with his second shot, but made a par, too. Canter, despite hitting the green in two, could do no better than a par himself after missing a six-footer that would have secured his card.

Canter’s missed opportunity became even more haunting on the second playoff hole, another playing of the 18th—only this time under lights to offset the rapidly setting sun. The 34-year-old Englishman who played in 11 LIV events in 2023 as a reserve and filled in for an injured Sam Horsfield, hit his drive right, the ball ending up just short of rolling into the water but inside the penalty area. While the rocks near the ball made the lie less than ideal, it looked like Canter would be able to play his second shot. However, it didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped.

With Canter essentially out of the hole, Vincent’s birdie and Kozuma’s par allowed them to grab the final two spots.

For his victory, Samooja earned a $200,000 first-place prize money payout. Vincent, meanwhile, gets to join his older brother Scott on the LIV circuit. And Kozuma now is positioned to be the first Japanese golfer to play a full season on LIV after making three starts in the inaugural season of 2022.