PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.—Joaquin Niemann shot back-to-back rounds of 63 (-16) to break the 36-hole record and lead the Genesis Invitational, hosted by the Riviera Country Club, on Feb. 18.
“It was great to have a good start like this after a good round from yesterday,” said Niemann. “I hit the ball great again.”
Niemann began his second round with an eagle and a birdie, adding, “The way I started, I thought I could birdie every hole.”
The young 23-year-old turned professional in April 2018 following 44 weeks as the No. 1 ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
With Niemann’s victory at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, in September 2019, he became the first PGA Tour winner from Chile, and the youngest international to win on tour.
Niemann, along with Jordan Spieth in 2013 and Jon Rahm (Spain) in 2016, was able to obtain PGA Tour cards, having started the season without any status or advancing through the PGA Korn Ferry Tour, formerly Web.com Tour.
Niemann has said that Riviera Country Club is his favorite course—having tied for second last year after the first two rounds of 67 and 68, but was unable to stay atop the leaderboard with final rounds of 78 and 72.
His ball striking is even better this year, approaching within 15 feet 13 times in the first two rounds, along with making 55 feet of putts on Thursday, and 126 feet on Friday.
Niemann added that it feels like forever since his tour victory, but he’s focusing on not putting too much pressure on a second victory.
“I’m having a lot of fun outside the golf course, staying with friends,” said Niemann. “The weather here, you don’t see any clouds, [with] perfect temperature. It can’t get any better than this.”
Niemann’s total score of 126 for the first two rounds surpassed the previous record of 130 held by four different players, to include Sam Burns from last year.
Rookie 24-year-old Cameron Young, who is two strokes behind at -14 and finished the second round before Niemann, temporarily held the 36-hole record score at 128.
Justin Thomas, a PGA champion, sits in third. “I would have thought shooting 11 under, that I would probably be leading by five, not five back,” said Justin Thomas. “But there’s still a lot of golf left.”
Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are tied for fourth at -9, while world No. 2 Collin Morikawa is in 6th at 8 under.
“I think it’s still very doable,” said Morikawa. “I’ve just got to go out there and play hole by hole, shot by shot, and see what happens for the third and fourth round,” Morikawa said.
In the featured group with three-time Major champion Spieth are world No. 1 Jon Rahm at even par just making the cut, and Scottie Scheffler, last week’s first-time winner at the WM Phoenix Open, tied for 22nd at -4.
Other notables include Viktor Hovland at -7 and Rory McElroy at three under; tied for 10th is last year’s winner and Los Angeles native Max Homa at -6.
Missing the cut are Major champions Brooks Koepka (145), Dustin Johnson (144), and Bubba Watson (144).