Joaquin Niemann’s opening round of 59 may have been the performance of the day, but the man of the day was none other than Jon Rahm. Making his LIV Golf debut at the same golf course where he made his PGA Tour debut nine years ago, the world No. 3 looked like the same man outside the Legion XIII emblem on his chest and the shorts that he wore.
The Spaniard will head into the weekend at LIV Golf Mayakoba as one of Niemann’s closest pursuers after putting together a 5-under 66 in Round 1 at El Camaleon Golf Course. The golf came easy to Rahm, as it normally does, and his start with the team circuit began with a bang thanks to an opening birdie followed by four more over his next six holes. A couple more birdies were had before a pair of dropped shots on his last two holes put the finishing touches on Rahm’s league debut.
“I think golf in theory was going to be the safe haven from everything else,” said Rahm. “Things could be a bit messy at one point trying to find the team, but the golf course is always the place where I feel like I am in control to a certain extent and I can feel comfortable. With all the other stresses of having a team and everything pretty much gone, it was a lot easier to just come out here and focus and perform.
“The last hurdle was trying to figure out how the warm up was going to affect me [with] everybody going shotgun [start]. It didn’t seem to be any different to other starts or restarts I’ve had in the past. It was quite fun,” Rahm continued. “The atmosphere is clearly very different and I think it showed. I felt very relaxed out there. It is a little bit similar to how I play at home with my buddies with music in the cart. It was pretty much a perfect day …”
In the group ahead of Rahm, Niemann put his foot on the gas and never looked back. Making seven birdies across his first nine holes, the Chilean hit the nitrous on his 10th hole of the day with an eagle on the par-4 11th. A birdie on the par-5 13th shortly after put Niemann at 10 under on his round before picking off additional birdies on 15 and 17.
The 25-year-old needed only a pair of pars to card a sub-60 round, but he had his chances to go even deeper. A missed opportunity from short range on the par-4 18th quelled the thoughts of a 57 and an uneasy approach from just outside 100 yards on his closing hole said goodbye to a 58.
“I just realized it. I was really in the zone,” Niemann said after his round. “I was playing great and I said to myself, ‘Just keep doing the same.’ I got to the 18 and people started shouting at me to go for a 58, and I was like ‘Shit, it’s a par 71.’ When I got to 12 I didn’t realize if it was [par] 72 or 71 and I didn’t want to do the math. I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing … I was able to be under 60 which is pretty cool.”
Niemann’s 59 is the second sub-60 round in LIV Golf history; Bryson DeChambeau shot 58 in the final round of LIV Golf Greenbrier last August. His score also represents the lowest ever in a competition which held a PGA Tour event before LIV Golf took over these past two years.