PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico—Joaquin Niemann was unaware of just how well he was playing on Friday until spectators on the 18th hole—his second to last—started shouting that they wanted to see a score of 58.
Niemann quickly realized that doing the math in his head was not a good idea, but understood he was on the verge of something special.
“But man, I played amazing golf,” said the Chilean golfer, who shot 59 on the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon Golf Course to open the LIV Golf League season Friday. “Whenever I was hitting the ball, sometimes I was getting good lies, good bounces into the fairways, good numbers, so everything came out pretty good during the whole day.”
Niemann joined Bryson DeChambeau, who shot 58 last August in the final round at the Greenbrier, as the only players to break 60 in a LIV Golf event. Niemann’s 12-under-par total on the par-71 course saw him make an eagle and 10 birdies with no bogeys.
He actually had two chances at the 18th hole and the first hole (his last in the shotgun start) to shoot 58, missing a makeable birdie putt on the 18th and then hitting a poor approach but still making par on the first.
Nonetheless, the score was good for a five-shot lead in LIV Golf Mayakoba over Patrick Reed and a six-shot advantage over Sergio Garcia. Jon Rahm, making his LIV Golf debut, shot 66 and is seven strokes back.
“I would confidently say that I would have bet a lot of money against a 59 here this week just because of how narrow the fairways are,” Rahm said. “I can see a couple of really good swings that just didn’t end up on the fairway, and then it’s a toss-up in the rough. I don’t know what his stats were, but—well, he must have hit fairways or made a lot of putts. Whatever it is, it’s a heck of a round.”
Told that Rahm would have bet against him shooting 59, Niemann quipped: “He owes me money then. How much was it? But yes, I would think the same.”
Niemann, 25, turned pro in 2018 and has 10 professional wins, including two on the PGA Tour. He won the Australian Open in December and thus had the opportunity to join the DP World Tour, where he played last month at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and tied for fourth, four strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.
He has yet to win a LIV Golf event but lost in a playoff in 2022.
“I knew if I kept myself calm and if I kept myself the same way I was on the first couple holes, I knew it was going to be a really low day, and I felt that I was able to do that during the whole day,” Niemann said. “I felt like I was calm the whole day. I never went ahead of myself. I stuck to my routine. I visualized my shots, and I just went ahead and compromised with all those shots, and I was really confident on all of them.
“I’m just happy to be able to pull those shots and finish the round with a 59.”
Niemann is captain of the Torque team that is leading the team competition and also includes Carlos Ortiz, Sebastián Muñoz and Mito Pereira. Torque leads the 4Aces, the team captained by Dustin Johnson, and the Cleeks, captained by Martin Kaymer, by five shots.