Genesis Invitational electrifies fans with outstanding play
February 24, 2022
Chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole, Joaquim Niemann!" could be heard moments after the 23-year-old Chilean golfer holed his final shot at the renowned Riviera Country Club to win the 2022 Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades. Niemann's historic two-stroke wire-to wire victory over Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa was only the fourth time in the tournament's history that a player lead after all four rounds.
The late great Charles Sifford of Los Angeles was the last golfer to accomplish the feat in 1969 when the tournament was held at Rancho Park Golf Course. Certainly, the spirit of Sifford, who would have been 100 years old this coming June, was shining brightly on Niemann's game throughout the week. Niemann was humbled by the significance: "He was the last winner winning wire to wire and being the same year, he's turning 100 is some coincidence. I'm just happy to be the winner here at Riviera."
Niemann crushed the course record by four strokes after two rounds with a pair of scintillating 63's. He continued the trend by setting the 54-hole course record at 19-under par on Saturday. His fought off Young and Viktor Holvand on Sunday with a well-earned and resilient par 71 for a 265 final score. The 72-hole total that was one off the course record of 264 set by Lanny Wadkins in 1985. Niemann moved up to 20th from 32nd in the World Golf Rankings following his second PGA Tour victory.
"Obviously, it's the toughest tournament I think during the year. It's got the best field, the best players are here and that proves to myself that I can be competing with the top guys, I can be up there in the world ranking. I think it's going to give me a lot of confidence for what is coming next," said Niemann. "I was feeling really confident about my game, and I was able to handle it during the week."
The 24-year old Young, who's second place finish jettisoned him from 113 to 53 in the World Golf Rankings, gave Niemann a run for his money the entire weekend. His low score of 62 on Friday left him only two strokes shy of Niemann going into Saturday's round. Niemann stretched his lead to seven strokes over Young after an eagle on the famed par-4 10th Hole, but Young scrambled back to within three strokes at the end of Round 3.
Young posed the greatest threat early Sunday afternoon after Niemann bogeyed the par-4, 7th Hole to drop the lead to one stroke with 11 holes to play. But Niemann nailed a 7-foot putt on the par-4, 8th Hole while Young bogeyed, reestablishing a three-stoke lead. A crowd-roaring eagle chip-in on the par 5, 11th Hole put Niemann up by five strokes. Yet, a couple of back-to-back bogeys by Niemann and a pair of birdies by Young kept the suspense going until the 18th Hole when Niemann dropped the 19-inch putt for the win.
"He putted beautifully, he drove it fantastic. With the exception of a couple yesterday, he really drove it great. He hit just a flat draw off almost every hole. Then his speed on the greens is so good. I don't think anyone did better with that this week than he did," said Young, impressed with Niemann's game. "I'm proud of myself for staying up there for a long time. There were a couple shots I wish I had back today, but all in all happy with the week."
Local sensation Collin Morikawa of La Cañada, currently ranked 2nd in the World Golf Ranking, shot a 65 on Sunday to finish tied for second. His finished tied for 26th and 43rd the two previous years at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Morikawa said, "I guess this is my first full-field event of the entire season. Feels nice to be back. It's so good to hear the fans. I wish we had more events in L.A. because I definitely felt the energy from them.
"I told J.J. (Jakovac, Morikawa's caddie) yesterday if I was within nine, I thought I had a chance because you never know what's going to happen... I just had to put together a few better rounds and make a few less mistakes, but overall, I'm happy with the way things kind of played out. Wish I had that putt on 18 again, but it is what it is."
Viktor Hovland of Norway, who moved up his World Ranking up four spots to No. 4, shot a 70 on Sunday to finish tied for fourth at -14 with Adam Scott. Hovland birdied three holes on the back nine but bogeyed the 12th and 16th Holes that kept him from real contention. "I honestly thought I did a pretty good job for the way I played today, but if I could have kept swinging it like I did the last two days, I would have had a shot today. I just didn't quite play the same way tee to green. Actually, pretty happy with my short game, how I was able to get around there."
Niemann concluded his greatest finish but certainly not his last on the PGA Tour. The emergence of the young South American golfer, especially in a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods and Genesis USA since 2017, was not lost on Niemann. "It was awesome having Tiger there. I haven't seen him since probably a year... Being able to see him doing as well as he's doing is awesome. He's awesome, he's one of my idols. I always watched him on T.V. and I still do. Having Tiger on site receiving the trophy is something special."