SIGNING OF ORTIZ GIVES TORQUE GC EXTRA CONFIDENCE FOR 2024
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Torque GC won a LIV Golf League-high four regular-season tournaments last year but the Spanish-speaking combination was unable to celebrate a single individual title success.
Boosted by a key offseason signing in the shape of an old friend - former Fireballs GC player Carlos Ortiz - Torque will be hoping to change that during 2024 as they head into the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba with fond memories of that tournament from just under 12 months ago.
On the final day of the 2023 LIV Golf Mayakoba, captain Joaquin Niemann, Sebastian Muñoz and Mito Pereira all carded 3-under 68s at El Camaleon Golf Course to secure the team third place at 13 under.
"Getting back to play team events with these guys has been pretty awesome," said Niemann. "We all grew up playing for a team, so being together as a team makes it even more special. The chemistry between us is pretty good. All the practice rounds and the games we do, it's pretty easy for all of us to hang out together.
"Looking back to Mayakoba last year, we didn't start well in the first round, but the four of us then played great golf over the weekend."
Last year, Torque GC was collectively 5 over after Day 1 at El Camaleon but rallied superbly with successive counting totals of 9 under to rocket up the leaderboard into third place. Muñoz fared best on the individual leaderboard, finishing up in eighth, while Niemann placed 11th and Pereira 16th.
By the time the 2023 campaign was over, Torque had racked up four team victories and they had posted the lowest winning counting score of any team, shooting 49 under to win at The Greenbrier. However, they finished a disappointing third at the season-ending Team Championship in Miami.
On the individual front, Pereira recorded six top-10s during 2023 (including a season-best runner-up spot at LIV Golf Greenbrier). Muñoz accumulated five top-10s (including second place at LIV Golf Orlando) while Niemann also notched up five and Spaniard David Puig just two.
Since then, Puig and Ortiz became free agents and they switched Spanish-speaking teams for the 2024 LIV Golf League season, with Ortiz signing to play for Torque GC while Puig joined Fireballs GC.
Mexican Ortiz had been a member of Sergio Garcia's Fireballs team ever since joining LIV Golf for the second event of the beta-test 2022 season. Last year, he was the Fireballs' top performer and ranked 15th in the season-long Individual points race.
With the consistent Ortiz now linking up with his good buddies in Muñoz of Colombia and Chilean professionals Niemann and Pereira, Torque have every reason to feel even more confident about their prospects for this year.
"The four of us get along really well together and hopefully we can transform that into the golf course," said Niemann. "Each of us knows what we have to do. So, we're going to be fighting against each other, trying to make sure our rounds count."
Pereira added: "We are super-happy and excited to have Carlos with Team Torque and we are going to try to put all that Latin power on top of the leaderboards this season. If we can get a little bit more consistency, we're going to be really good."
Muñoz, who is a godfather to one of Ortiz's daughters, said: "We intend to take the whole thing down. We intend to get our hands on a lot of trophies."
Another auspicious sign for Torque GC ahead of this season was the brilliant final-day form shown by captain Niemann early last December when the Chilean won the ISPS Handa Australian Open in a two-hole playoff against Japan's Rikuya Hoshino at The Australian Golf Club near Sydney.
Niemann rallied from four shots down to start the final round, shooting a 5-under 66 to take the clubhouse lead at 14 under. Hoshino, the 54-hole co-leader, matched him with a 70.
They each made birdie on the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th, before Niemann won it with a 7-foot eagle putt the second time around. It was the 10th tournament victory of Niemann's professional career and his first since the 2022 Genesis Invitational at Riviera.
"It was a nice day," said Niemann. "Those last two playoff holes showed how I have been playing the last few weeks here in Australia. My putting hasn't been the best, but I've been working hard on it, and it was nice to make that last putt. I always practice those three, four, five-feet ones and know that one of those will be to win a tournament. It's amazing."
Niemann's Australian Open victory secured him a spot in this year's Open Championship at Royal Troon.