PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Jon Rahm and his Legion XIII’s debut was set to be the talk of the first round of LIV Golf’s 2024 season opener, but the big man from the Basque region of Spain took a backseat to Joaquin Niemann on Friday.
Niemann fired the second LIV Golf round of sub-60 in the last seven months on Friday, a blistering and bogey-free 12-under 59 that featured 10 birdies and a hole-out for eagle. It’s the second lowest round in LIV’s young history following Bryson DeChambeau’s 12-under 58 in the final round to win LIV Golf Greenbrier last August.
“I could see 8-, 9-under, but 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,” said Rahm of Niemann’s round.
“He owes me money then. How much was it?” Niemann joked in response. “Yeah, I wouldn’t think the same, either. I think the fairways are playing a lot tighter than they used to be. The rough is a lot trickier, too. It’s a little longer, and you’ve got a lot of different lies, which is tricky.”
“But man, I played amazing golf,” he continued. “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.”
With the shotgun start, Niemann began his round on No. 2 at Mayakoba’s El Camaleon Golf Course and made par before he rattled off seven birdies over his next eight holes. From the fairway on the par-4 11th, the Torque GC captain one-hopped his ball on the green and into the cup for eagle to move to 9 under through 10 holes and put his round on 59 watch.
“I think I hit a great shot on No. 10. It’s always a tricky hole, No. 10, especially with that pin on the left. You don’t want to miss it left,” Niemann explained. “But then on the right, you’ve got the water, and I was able to have a good number. Hit a great 7-iron to like three, four feet, and I think that was the best shot of the day for me.”
Birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 moved Niemann to 11 under with four holes to play on the par-71 track. His birdie putt on No. 16 came up less than a foot short of falling, leading to a disappointing par. From the first cut rough on the 17th, Niemann stuffed his approach inside five feet to set up a clutch birdie to move to 12-under with two holes to play. On No. 18, his second-to-last hole, Niemann pulled his birdie putt left so he had to take par.