MIAMI: Sergio Garcia has played so many competitive rounds on the Blue Monster during his legendary career that there are no longer any surprises. He hopes that experience will pay off Sunday with his first win on the iconic course — and his first win in the LIV Golf League.

The Fireballs GC captain shot a 4-under 68 Saturday at LIV Golf Miami to move to 9 under, good enough for a two-stroke lead going into the final round at Trump National Doral. His closest pursuers are Smash GC’s Talor Gooch, Legion XIII’s Tyrrell Hatton, RangeGoats GC’s Matthew Wolff and Stinger GC’s Dean Burmester.

Legion XIII tops the team leaderboard at 21 under thanks to Kieran Vincent’s 66, Hatton’s 67 and Jon Rahm’s 70. They lead the RangeGoats by three shots while seeking their second win of their inaugural season as a LIV Golf expansion team.

Having been involved in two LIV Golf individual playoffs that didn’t go his way — including the epic into-the-darkness four-hole battle again Joaquin Niemann in this year’s season opener at Mayakoba — Garcia would love to avoid extra holes on Sunday and wrap up the tournament in regulation.

“At the end of the day, you’ve just got to keep giving yourself chances,” said Garcia, who has 36 career professional wins, the last one in 2020. “I’m trying my hardest out there every time. I’m trying my best. Sometimes my best is really good, sometimes my best is not quite as good. Hopefully tomorrow, my best will be really good, and we’ll be able to get it done. If not, we’ll just keep working at it.”

Garcia made his first professional start at Doral in 2002 and has a couple of third-place finishes to show for it. His bogey-free 67 on Friday matched his lowest score on the Blue Monster, and he followed it with a Saturday performance that started with an approach shot that banged off the flagstick on his opening hole and included his only bogey of the tournament on his 29th hole played.

“Guess we’ve seen it throughout all these years, so we know a little bit more or less what to expect,” Garcia said. “But it’s the kind of golf course that you have to hit good shots. If you don’t, it’s tough.”

Garcia is not alone in seeking his first LIV Golf victory.

Of the top 12 players on the leaderboard, the only one who has lifted a LIV Golf individual trophy is Gooch, who won three times last year en route to claiming the season-long Individual Championship.

He doubts that gives him any kind of edge over the other contenders on Sunday — “I haven’t looked at the leaderboard, but I’m betting a few of those dudes have won major championships and Ryder Cups,” he said — but he does have confidence in his ability to successfully navigate a tense and compact final-round leaderboard.

“It’s nice to have won that much recently,” said Gooch, who is seeking his first LIV Golf win on American soil after all three wins last year overseas. “That’s confidence-boosting for sure.”

Like Garcia, Burmester and Wolff have sniffed around the leaderboard a couple of times since joining LIV Golf. Both are among the league’s biggest hitters, so it’s no surprise they’re in contention on a course that measures 7,701 yards. Neither player had seen the course until they joined LIV Golf.

“It’s not called the Blue Monster for nothing,” Burmester said. “It’s tough. There’s not one golf shot you stand there and think, man, I’ve actually got a chance.”

Wolff finished fourth earlier this year in Las Vegas in just his second start after RangeGoats’ captain, Bubba Watson, acquired him in a trade for Gooch. Now he’s in Sunday’s final group with Gooch and trying to catch Garcia.

“Winning is really hard to do,” Wolff said. “Anytime you have the opportunity to be in contention or win is definitely something to be proud of.”

Team scores

Standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Miami. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. LEGION XIII -21 (Vincent 66, Hatton 67, Rahm 70; Rd. 2 score: -13)

2. RANGEGOATS GC -18 (Pieters 69, Wolff 69, Uihlein 73; Rd. 2 score: -5)

3. STINGER GC -13 (Oosthuizen 68, Burmester 69, Grace 71; Rd. 2 score: -8)

4. CLEEKS GC -12 (Meronk 66, Bland 67, Samooja 73; Rd. 2 score: -10)

5. FIREBALLS GC -10 (Garcia 68, Ancer 69, Chacarra 72; Rd. 2 score: -7)

T6. TORQUE GC -9 (Niemann 69, Ortiz 69, Pereira 71; Rd. 2 score: -7)

T6. 4ACES GC -9 (Reed 69, Johnson 71, Varner 74; Rd. 2 score: -2)

T8. CRUSHERS GC -7 (Lahiri 70, DeChambeau 70, Casey 71; Rd. 2 score: -5)

T8. SMASH GC -7 (Gooch 70, Kokrak 72 McDowell 73; Rd. 2 score: -1)

T10. HYFLYERS GC E (Tringale 70, Mickelson 72, Steele 72; Rd. 2 score: -2)

T10. RIPPER GC E (Leishman 69, Campbell 71, Jones 75; Rd. 2 score -1)

T10. IRONHEADS GC E (Na 72, Lee 72, Vincent 74; Rd. 2 score: +2)

13. MAJESTICKS GC +4 (Stenson 71, Horsfield 71, Poulter 74; Rd. 2 score: E)

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