Niemann opens LIV Golf season with 59 to lead in Mexico
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AP) — Joaquin Niemann became the second LIV Golf player in as many years with a sub-60 round, closing with two pars for a 12-under 59 to build a five-shot lead as the Saudi-funded league began its third season Friday at LIV Golf Mayakoba.
Niemann had a chance to match the LIV record with one last birdie, but his wedge into his final hole — No. 1 at El Camaleon in the shotgun start — came up about 10 feet short of the green. He took two putts for his first 59 in competition. Bryson DeChambeau last year shot 58 in the final round at Greenbrier
He led by five shots over Patrick Reed.
Niemann knew he was playing well, he just wasn't sure how much under par he was. El Camaleon plays to a par 71. This didn't register with the 25-year-old Chilean until he was 12 under playing his final hole and heard shouts of 58.
“I got to 12 and didn't realize it was 72 or 71 and didn't want to do the math,” Niemann said. “People started to say, ‘Go for 58.’ Not my best wedge, but able to be under 60, which is cool.”
It was the 52nd round in the 50s in professional golf around the world. The lowest on the PGA Tour is a 58 by Jim Furyk in the 2016 Travelers Championship. David Carey shot 57 in the first round of the Cervino Open in 2019 on the Alps Tour.
Niemann's 59 overshadowed the debut of Masters champion Jon Rahm, who signed with LIV in December in the league's biggest acquisition. Rahm opened with three birdies in four holes, but he had to settle for a 66, leaving him seven shots behind with two rounds to go.
Rahm spent the last two weeks trying to fill his four-man team called Legion XIII, getting Ryder Cup partner Tyrrell Hatton in the days before the season started. Hatton shot 72.
“The golf course is always going to be the place I can be in control,” Rahm said of the hectic buildup to his LIV debut. “I felt relaxed out there. It was similar to how I feel at home with music in the cart.”
Sergio Garcia shot 65.
“Another round in the 50s shows that competition is not lacking here,” Rahm said.
Niemann has yet to win an individual title since joining LIV after the 2022 Tour Championship. He struggled last year, finishing 26th on money list in the 48-man league. But he won the Australian Open during his offseason.
LIV began its third season with a few tweaks to its formats. There now are 13 teams with Rahm's addition, plus two wild-cards who play only as individuals to allow for threesomes to start on each hole.
For the team competition, the top three scores from each team count, with all four scores counting on the final day.
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