Niemann Ties Opening Round Record at Riviera
Chilean Shoots 63 to Lead by Three Over Low-Scoring Field
February 24, 2022
Picture perfect conditions at Riviera Country Club once again set the tone at the Genesis Invitational on Thursday in Pacific Palisades (97th edition of the Los Angeles Open). Losing no time drafting off the L.A. sports momentum in wake of the Rams' Super Bowl victory, 23-year old Joaquin Niemann from Chile shot a record-tying opening round 63 (-8), to take a three-stroke lead over a low-scoring field.
"It's got to be one of my best days on the golf course, especially in a place like this with this history. Riviera Country Club is one of my favorite golf courses and this event is my favorite during the year," said a satisfied Niemann, who finished 44th (-1) in his first attempt at Riviera in 2019. He shot a pair of 72's but missed the cut in 2020. Last year, he finished tied of 43rd (+1).
The pursuit is as crowded as the L.A. freeways. Scottie Scheffler, fresh off winning last week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, is tied with three players at 5-under: Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young, and local favorite Max Homa (Valencia High), defending his Genesis Invitational title won last year in a playoff with Tony Finau.
Six are tied one stroke back (-4): another local favorite, Collin Morikawa (La Cañada High), C.T. Pan, Jason Kokrak, Camerson Smith, Justin Thomas, and Charley Hoffman. 20 players are within five strokes, including 2-time Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott. 76 players are at even-par or better, which is likely to also be the cut line after Friday's round.
At the bottom of the leaderboard, Wyndham Clark was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Clark, who finished tied for eighth at Riviera in 2021, shot a 77 on Thursday and was playing with Brandon Hagy and Brendan Steele. This isn't the first similar infraction for Clark. He was also disqualified as a PGA Tour rookie while making his first start at the 2019 Players Championship for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Homa: "I'm feeling good, the game feels really good. I had a great few days of prep. I did everything pretty well today. I putted really well inside five feet, which was key. The greens got super bumpy as they do out here. I drove it great, irons were solid. I didn't really put myself in too many bad spots. so I just felt like I just played honestly just tried to make it as boring as I could and just keep hitting good shots and I felt like I did that."
Playing in the same group starting off on the back-nine with Jon Rahm, Scheffler and Spieth both battled for the early clubhouse lead with a pair of 66's. Rahm got off to a slow start before birdieing the par-4 Holes 7 and 8 to finish at -2.
Scheffler's momentum from the Phoenix win helped him survive an adventurous par-5 11th Hole: "I honestly still don't know how my ball stayed off the driving range because I tried to hit like a hard cut and I hit a hard pull draw... I was just fortunate to keep it in play."
"I had like 200 to clear the little ravine. I hit this awesome little punch shot, and it just caught the top of it. So now I'm in the upslope. I'm only like 170 out, but I'm hitting 5-iron. Then it came out softer from the Kikuyu, only flew like 130 yards. And then I had that bunker shot."
Spieth, who has made six of eight cuts at the Genesis invitational since 2014 and had his best showing in 2015 when he finished tied for fourth (-5), chose Riviera as the one non-major tournament to win on the PGA Tour. "I love Riviera. I think it's arguably, it's in the conversation as the best golf course in the world," said Spieth.
"It's more so that than anything else really, but obviously the fact that it's an invitational and Tiger's taken it over and all that added stuff, too, but I would have said that before it became a TGR Foundation event."
Niemann reiterated Spieth's sentiments: "The place we're at, L.A.'s beautiful, I like it... Just being here, being in a tournament hosted by Tiger also makes it a lot really special. I think obviously all the top players playing this week, so that makes it a lot better, also."