What a masterful performance by Joaco! Came out of the gates hot on Thursday and built himself a lead that was untouchable. Sure, he cooled off a bit on the weekend and Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa applied some pressure on Sunday, but Niemann was able to get it in the house without breaking tooo much of a sweat. 63-63 to kick things off will do that.
That's a number that's not really supposed to happen at Riviera. There are certainly opportunities to score out there, but Riviera will take your lunch money quicker than you can say kikuyu. The fact that he was able to go out there and shoot -8 not once, but twice? Ridiculous. Guy slept on the 1st round lead and came out eagle-birdie to start early Friday morning, basically putting everybody else on notice. He pushed the number as low as 21 under par after eagling #10 on Saturday
From there it was just a matter of getting it into the house. May have played +2 from there on in, but that's a luxury you get when you build that kind of lead.
Wire-to-wire is a lot rarer than I think people realize. Nobody had done it since Nick Taylor two years ago at Pebble Beach. That's roughly 100 tournaments ago. Nobody had done it at Riviera since Charlie Sifford allll the way back in 1969. Hell, despite all of his mind-blowing stats, even Tiger's only done it 7 times as the outright leader in his entire career. Guys consistently sleep on leads and lose them. Jo didn't. Big ups to him.
Niemann's been a young up and coming guy on Tour for a good while now. If you watched the broadcast this weekend, you heard a lot about his story given they had to fill a lot of airtime during a relatively non-competitive golf tournament. He and Cameron Young were the focal points, so you heard all about how the kid is 23 years old from Chile and held the #1 amateur spot in the world for a full year. It's his 5th year on Tour, and each year he's a guy who some think will take that next step into the top echelon of the world's best. He won the 2019 Greenbrier, but that's a fall event with a relatively weak field. This week was his coming out party. This is easily a top 10 tournament on Tour and it's got a fat paycheck attached to it. Better yet, it launches him into the Top 20 in the world for the first time in his career and sets him up for a big 2022 that might see him take that jump. South America is not an area of the world that sees a ton of success in golf, so his success means a lot to a lot of people. Good for the game.
Congrats to Joaquin and hats off to Riviera for another great tournament.