By Steve Keating
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Four Aces captain Dustin Johnson hit the LIV Golf Las Vegas jackpot on Saturday, winning $4 million while entertaining a mostly young rowdy crowd looking to get some early partying in ahead of the Super Bowl.
Johnson, one of the first big names to jump from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, carded a final round one-under 69 for a three round total of 12-under 198 to edge Talor Gooch and Peter Uihlein by a single shot.
Smash GC, captained by Brooks Koepka, ran away with the team title and $3 million finishing on 33-under, seven strokes clear of the Four Aces.
Just a good Jon Rahm three wood from the Strip, the Las Vegas Country Club proved the ideal venue for the Saudi-backed tour that brands itself as “Golf Only Louder”.
“In the U.S. our demographic is much younger than the traditional golf fan,” said Hyflyers GC captain Phil Mickelson. “To be in Las Vegas the week of the Super Bowl, that’s the demographic we’re trying to hit.”
Despite luring many of golf’s biggest names away from the PGA Tour with eye-popping purses and signing bonuses, LIV Golf’s innovative reworking of the sport bringing in a team component and loud music has yet to gain traction.
The Las Vegas stop produced some entertaining golf and Vegas-style partying that brought out a boisterous capacity crowd on a blustery cool day, but a quick scan of the gallery was revealing.
This was a football crowd with spectators wearing more sweaters of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs – the Super Bowl teams that will do battle on Sunday – than any of the 13 LIV teams like the Rangegoats or Cleeks Golf club gear.
Perhaps more telling, thousands of members of the world’s media flooded into Las Vegas for the Super Bowl but only a handful were at the Las Vegas Country Club for Saturday’s final round.
No hole explains more about the vibe LIV is trying to bring to golf than the par three eighth with its DJ and non-stop thumping beat.
The Birdie Shack, an open-air enclosure overlooking the eighth tee box, is where the hardiest revellers were directed to congregate – the perch reserved for the “the loudest of the loud”.
Party Hole cabanas were sold out for Saturday’s final round offering an all-inclusive bar and advertised as just like having your own VIP booth in the coolest part of a club.
“I had a great time this week,” said Johnson, who was congratulated by his wife Paulina and father-in-law Hockey Hall of Famer “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky. “Anytime you can get a win it feels amazing.
“It feels really good to get one early in the season and obviously winning here in Vegas with all these fans and a great field, I am very proud of myself.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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