I cannot believe it’s the end of the second regular season and that we’re on our way to LIV Golf Jeddah. So much has happened since the league got off the ground in June 2022, and since my team, Ripper GC, began competing in the league in September last year.
From a high-performance standpoint, it’s been a demanding but rewarding process helping my athletes – Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Matt Jones and Jed Morgan – to navigate professional golf as a team, and not just as individuals.
One of the biggest lessons we learned was while we were all competing at the 2022 LIV Golf Jeddah event at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia. None of the boys finished inside the top 10 on the leaderboard. We battled the extreme Middle East heat, a viral sickness that had ripped through the 48-player roster and all the support teams, as well as the jetlag. We are far more prepared for LIV Golf Jeddah this year. We have to be; there’s a lot on the line.
Chief among what’s at stake is that Cam leads the individual standings for season-long points. He has been arguably LIV’s best and most consistent performer in 2023. He’s had two wins, in London and Bedminster, as well as six top 10s and eight top-24 points finishes. He leads the standings with 170 points, ahead of Talor Gooch from RangeGoats GC. Gooch has three wins, four top 10s and 11 top-24 points finishes. Bryson DeChambeau is third with two wins, five top 10s and 10 top-24 points finishes.
If Cam wins enough points in Jeddah to hold onto top spot, he takes out the $18 million bonus for the title. Ripper GC is also seventh in points on the teams standings and any points we earn in Jeddah will shape our chances at the season-ending teams championship at Miami’s famed Doral course next week. It’s safe to say we haven’t left any stone unturned in our preparation for Jeddah.
As Ripper GC’s Director of High Performance, I have consulted with the team to meticulously plan our travel from the US to Saudi Arabia. We have thought hard about avoiding sickness, dehydration, jet lag, and we have executed strategies for heat management with most days set to be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is in addition to the strength and conditioning protocols for each of the boys in the lead up to leaving. They have been tailored for Cam, Leish, Jonesy and Jed so each can reach close to peak performance. Here’s what we’ve prepared for:
How do we hit the ground running in Jeddah so we can maintain that momentum through to Miami? A good start is the Timeshifter app, which is dedicated to optimising a person’s flight plan to adjust to the destination’s local conditions as quickly as possible. Timeshifter will advise us on when to sleep, eat, use melatonin, drink water, and even when to consume (or not consume) caffeine. This is all to combat jet lag.
Travel exposes us to thousands of people from all corners of the earth, and their germs. Viruses and sickness can greatly affect an athlete’s performance. As a team, we are looking at a US domestic flight of about two hours and then a long-haul international flight of about 14 hours, a 4 hour layover, then a 3 hour flight to Jeddah. We will regularly use a saline solution nasal spray to keep our sinuses clear. It helps evict any potential unwanted pathogens that may have hitched a ride in the nose. We’re also incorporating zinc lozenges into our travel kits. Zinc is a mineral in your body that helps maintain your immune system and metabolism.
Long haul flights without movement at 40,000 ft can lead to dehydration. Maintaining vital minerals in the body is crucial to performance. Hydration is something we need to beef up even before we start practising and playing in the scorching heat of Jeddah. As a team we adopted the LivPur hydration supplement a while ago, and we’ll be relying on it heavily. LivPur’s hydrate supplement is a rapid rehydration formula that contains essential and branch amino acids to help counteract fatigue, boost recovery, and aid muscles in their repair and growth. We approach hydration in terms of hours, both on the flight and on the golf course. Only the latter will require more volume. Generally, the rule is 500 mL of hydration every hour, whether through water only or water and LivPur.
UV and heat
Playing golf in extreme heat and direct sunlight can be physically taxing and detrimental to our performance. To counter this, we've implemented a range of sun protection strategies.
Titleist has kitted us out with lightweight UV umbrellas, which not only offer protection from the sun but create a noticeable difference in temperature underneath. It's literally carrying portable shade. We’ve also integrated custom Yeti thermoses into our golf bags, which will fuel us with iced water and hydration throughout the rounds.
We will also look to avoid over-practising where possible. The boys have already checked the boxes in the skill-building department before the event, so there isn’t likely to be any skill acquisition once we’re there. However, this is fluid as some golfers believe repeating feels and swing moves builds confidence. Best case is we practise smarter, not harder.
So, how are the boys trending? Cam is in great form and wants to clinch that individual title. He finished tied 21st last year at Jeddah, but he’s keen to reverse that. Leish has really rounded into form after a slow start to the season, and finished tied second, one shot back of winner DeChambeau, at LIV Golf Chicago last month. He has another T2 and a T7 in his last four starts. Jonesy has struggled for top form this season but has been working hard. Jed faces a unique challenge; if he doesn't secure a top-10 finish in Jeddah, he faces relegation from the LIV roster; he is 46th on points and all players from 45th down will be relegated to a 72-hole stroke play qualifying tournament to be held in Abu Dhabi in late November. The qualifying tournament will offer players a chance to earn their way back on to LIV. We're doing everything in our power to support Jed and help him peak perform.
The Ripper Skipper
Cam’s T21 in Jeddah last year frustrated him because he’d come off a LIV Golf Chicago win and three PGA Tour wins that year, including the Open at St Andrews and the Players. In the past, the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club has challenged Cam with greens he has struggled to read properly, in addition to tricky wind. But he’s a more complete player now.
Cam’s physical prep for LIV Golf Jeddah has focused on speed power rather than strength power, which it was before LIV Golf Chicago. For a two-week block, we’ve been working out at a goal of 60 to 75 per cent of his 3 Rep Maximum. Basically, we're lifting lighter things a lot faster. We’ve been doing about three to four sessions a week.
It’s contrast training; we're doing lifts with plyometric movements. We’re throwing med balls down, and against the wall. We’ve also been Hang Power cleans and doing step-change throws with a med ball. There have been Trap Bar Deadlifts and some 90-degree vertical jumps onto a box and Back squats with some split jumps.
All this is making sure the mechanisms in the body that are geared towards moving quickly are all engaged. You're exciting the system in that way. Cam won’t hit every swing at 100 per cent in Jeddah, but when he wants to, the body will be engaged in way that allows it.
All this is geared towards giving Cam the best chance at holding onto the individual points lead, and Ripper GC its best chance at another team win after LIV Golf Bedminster. We’ll check back in with you all after the event!