Golf: Chile's Niemann jumps out to three-shot lead at Genesis Invitational by tying record low

Joaquin Niemann hits his tee shot on the 18th hole at the Riviera Country Club in California on Feb 17, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - Joaquin Niemann of Chile rang up nine birdies and posted an eight-under 63 to take a three-shot lead after one round of the Genesis Invitational on Thursday (Feb 17) at Pacific Palisades, California.

Niemann, a 23-year-old with one PGA Tour victory, tied the opening-round record at Riviera Country Club. Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young and defending champion Max Homa are tied for second at five under.

"I think it's got to be one of my best days on the golf course, especially in a place like this with this history," he said. "Riviera Country Club is one of my favourite golf courses and this event is my favourite during the year."

Niemann started his round on the back nine with two birdies and a bogey before he chipped in for birdie at the par-four 13th. His irons and wedges were dialled in: approaches at Nos. 17, 4, 5 and 7 all landed between two and six feet of the pin, allowing him to make birdie at all four.

"I hit the ball great off the tee," he said. "My iron play, I was hitting it really close so that makes it a lot easier. The greens were pretty good also today and it wasn't that windy."

Scheffler, coming off his first career Tour win last week at the Phoenix Open, also started on the back nine and made later eagle at the par-five first hole. He hit a seven-iron for his second shot and rolled it within two feet of the pin.

His friend and fellow Texan, former world No. 1 Spieth, also turned in a 66 early in the day. He opened with a busy back nine, making five birdies along with one bogey. He birdied No. 1 and sank a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 7 to move to six under and the solo lead before giving it back with a bogey on the next hole.

The three-time Major champion expressed his fondness for the Genesis, currently hosted by Tiger Woods in partnership with his charitable foundation.

"I love Riviera. I think it's arguably, it's in the conversation as the best golf course in the world," Spieth said. "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."

Homa won the Genesis last season by beating Tony Finau in a play-off. His title defence got off to a good start, with an eagle hole-out at the par-four 10th accompanying four birdies and one bogey.

"Yeah, that (eagle) was a big boost, that was fun," he said. "As (caddie Joe Greiner) said, I think that hole likes me. Hooked it around a tree last year and then somehow made a two this year. So that's not usually what I expect to happen on that hole, but I will take it."

World No. 2 Collin Morikawa, world No. 8 Justin Thomas, Jason Kokrak, Charley Hoffman, Australia's Cameron Smith and C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei are tied for sixth at four-under 67.

All 10 the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field at Riviera. Spain's Jon Rahm, the world No. 1, shot a 69 on Thursday, as did Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. Twice Major winner Dustin Johnson, who has slipped to sixth in the world, turned in a two-over 73.

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