GRITTY IRON HEADS READY TO SHOW THEIR STEEL IN MAYAKOBA
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Captain Kevin Na’s Iron Heads may have endured a forgettable 2023, but his team provided two of the most unforgettable stories of valor during the season.
The first came from Danny Lee, who started his LIV career with a victory in only his second start (Tucson), but then played the latter half of the season with two chipped bones in his right wrist. That would require him to take anti-inflammatory injections on a daily basis, but the New Zealander did not want to let the team down and carried on regardless. On Tuesday after the Team Championship, he had a surgery done.
The second was Scott Vincent’s remarkable display in the final event of the regular season at Jeddah. The Zimbabwean, who qualified for LIV Golf in 2023 by winning the International Series Order of Merit on the Asian Tour, came into the tournament ranked 31st and way outside the Lock Zone of top-24 that would secure his card for 2024.
Vincent was clutch at Royal Greens. He shot a stunning 62 on Saturday and then knuckled down over the closing stretch on Sunday. A final-hole birdie helped him finish tied 3rd, and elevated him to 22nd place in the points list.
Now, with Japan’s Jinichiro Kozuma as their fourth team member, Iron Heads have another player with plenty of pluck. The 29-year-old from Kagoshima came through the grueling Promotions event in Abu Dhabi and after making a gritty par on the last hole to enter a three-way playoff, and then made a miraculous par on the first extra hole after hitting his tee shot into the water.
The smile never fades from Kozuma’s face and he never shies away from the big stage. In 2022, he qualified to play LIV Golf’s inaugural event in London and did well to finish 16th against the stars. His best finish in three starts that year was a 6th place in Portland.
Iron Heads finished 12th in the regular season, and then could not rise above that position in the Team Championship. They did have one podium finish – a third place – when an inspired Lee won in Tucson.
Look out for them to make some noise this season.
Iron Heads 2024 Team:
Kevin Na (captain)
Iron Heads were forced to make one change after Sihwan Kim found himself in the Drop Zone last season. Captain Na re-signed Lee and Vincent and opted for Japan’s Kozuma, who qualified through the Promotions event in Abu Dhabi.
That keeps intact the Asia-Pacific flavor of the team, with Captain Na, an American born in Seoul, South Korea; Lee, a New Zealand born in Incheon, South Korea, and the Zimbabwean Vincent, who cut his teeth playing on the Asian Tour.
Iron Heads at Mayakoba
Iron Heads did not get off to a good start with a 10th-place finish in Mayakoba last year. They tallied 1-under par for the three rounds.
Vincent was the top Iron Heads player at the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleón Golf Course, finishing tied 15th at 3-under. Captain Na overcame a 3-over start with two successive rounds of 2-under to finish tied 20th at 1-under. Lee was 34th at 3-over.
The best round of the tournament at the wind-swept golf course was Vincent’s 3-under on Sunday.
Iron Heads in 2023
Iron Heads' finest moment came early in the season when they made their only podium visit in Tucson. That was fired by a stunning win for Lee in only his second LIV Golf start. Thereafter, Vincent’s two top-5 finishes (4th in Singapore and tied 3rd in Jeddah) were the two notable individual finishes.
Vincent led the individual standings for Iron Heads as he finished 22nd with 56 points, followed by Lee and Na in 29th and 30th place respectively with 41 points each.
The lowest round of the season for Iron Heads was the 8-under 62 at Royal Greens in Jeddah by Vincent on Saturday. Na twice shot 7-under (London 2nd round and Jeddah 3rd round), while Lee had a brace of 6-under (Orlando 1st round and Tulsa 2nd round). In the three LIV events Kozuma played in 2022, his best score was a 3-under in the 2nd round at Portland.
Vincent led the contributing round stats for his team with 36, followed by 34 each by Na and Lee. Iron Heads were hampered by a struggling Kim last year, who just could not control his driver throughout the year.