Written by
Bryan Mullen, LIV Golf Correspondent
Feb 26 2024
- 4 MIN

Team: Smash Golf Club
Previous event team finish: 1st
Season-long team standings: 3rd
Top finisher from previous event: Talor Gooch, T-2
Fun stat: Talor Gooch is leading the League in scrambling at 76.32%, well ahead of second-place Sergio Garcia (74.19%).


Everywhere you look, from recent form to past success on this course, Smash Golf Club is understandably the early favorite to contend for the team and individual trophies this week at LIV Golf Jeddah.

Start with the captain. Brooks Koepka hasn’t only been hot this year, but he has been a force on this layout. Koepka opened the season with a T-5 finish at Mayakoba and backed it up with a T-12 in Las Vegas. But now with the League heading to Jeddah, Koepka might hit another level.

Koepka is the two-time defending Jeddah champion, and he battled through playoffs in each of those years to hoist the trophy. There’s just something about Royal Greens Golf and Country Club that gets him going, and there’s no reason to think anything will change this week.

"Coming here as the back-to-back champ feels good," Koepka said. "I like this golf course. I've obviously played well, so some familiarity, I guess. The golf course hasn't changed over the last six years, so I'll be ready to play this week."

His team is coming off a victory at LIV Golf Las Vegas and is currently third in the season-long team standings. The revamped Smash GC has reigning Individual Champion Talor Gooch on the roster, and Gooch is coming off a T-2 finish at Las Vegas Country Club, just one shot behind winner Dustin Johnson, captain of 4Aces Golf Club.

Gooch has been outstanding on and around the greens this season, and if his short game continues to be this strong, expect him to be in contention – if not leading – come Sunday.

After all, Gooch was in the playoff against Koepka here in Jeddah last season.

"It was obviously a good week, and the final round that I had here is probably one of the best rounds of my life, circumstantially speaking," Gooch said. "It could have turned out a little bit better if it wasn't for that dude (Koepka) over there. But no, it was a great week, and very fond memories, and glad to be back."

Jason Kokrak is coming off a T-5 finish in Las Vegas and was a big part of his team’s victory. And wants more.

"I think we knew what we were expected to do, but I think the group of guys standing here are ready to play golf," Kokrak said about his teammates. "We're ready to win multiple times this year."

Perhaps the biggest boost has been provided by new team member Graeme McDowell, who also finished T-5 in Las Vegas to give the team an additional spark. The major champion was thought to be a nice addition for his experience and leadership, but McDowell proved he can still contend for titles.

"Certainly not resting on our laurels of Vegas," McDowell said. "We're looking to the season and trying to be the best we can be every week and keep working hard, and we've all had some reasonably good success around this golf course. This is a week that we feel like as a team we can certainly compete."

And if that wasn’t enough, consider this: McDowell won the PIF Saudi International played here at Royal Greens in 2020. He held off Johnson, the defending champion, during a dramatic final round.