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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Steve DiMeglio

Joaquin Niemann obliterates tournament record, leads Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club

Joaquin Niemann had one of those days on Thursday.

Had another on Friday.

A record-setting day, to boot.

After grabbing the lead with an opening-round, 8-under 63 in the Tiger Woods-hosted Genesis Invitational when most everything went right at Riviera Country Club, the 23-year-old from Chile didn’t do much wrong Friday and added another 63 to open up a two-shot advantage midway through the second round.

His 126 total through two rounds shattered the 36-hole tournament record by four shots. And he made mute the theory that it’s tough to follow a great round with another great round.

Through 36 holes, he has 16 birdies and an eagle. At 16 under, he’s two shots clear of rookie Cameron Young. And Lanny Wadkins’ tournament records of 20 under and 264 total that have lasted nearly 30 years are in jeopardy.

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“Everything is working pretty well. Obviously I’m making a lot of putts right now,” Niemann said. “I feel I’m starting my ball online with the putter, so when you have greens this good, when you start your line, I think you’ve got a good chance of making putts, so I think that’s been big this week.

“The one thing on days that I played that good and then I got to come the day after, sometimes it’s probably not as good. But I was able to try to keep it calm, try to stay with my emotions and try to just feel the same. The same way I feel on Thursday, try to make it the same on Friday. I think I made a good job there, which I was feeling great the whole day.”

The eagle came on his first hole on a chilly Friday morning, when he hit a 6-iron from 207 yards to four feet. He followed up with a birdie from 15 feet on the second and then a tap-in birdie on the seventh.

As the day warmed up and sunshine was abundant and conditions calm, Niemann added red numbers from 9, 12, 42, 18 and 3 feet coming home.

“Obviously it was a great start after yesterday’s round,” he said. “Didn’t sleep much, it was pretty late when I finished and we started pretty early, but we got it going pretty good at the beginning.”

Young had quite a day, too.

After posting a 66 in the opening round, Young, playing on a sponsor exemption, didn’t make a bogey and closed with four birdies to shoot 62, one off the tournament-course record. While his longest birdie came from 20 feet, seven came from within 10 feet, including a tap-in on the ninth, his final hole.

The two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner’s best finish on the PGA Tour is a tie for second in last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship. His in good position to move up from his world ranking of 113th.

His 128 total through two rounds bested the old 36-record by two shots.

“I feel like I’ve been playing really well the last few weeks, my last few starts. Hasn’t turned into anything great, a bunch of made cuts, finished kind of middle of the pack, but every week it’s just felt like I should be right there,” Young said. “It’s either been I had one bad day where I just didn’t hit it well or just didn’t quite make anything. Today finally felt kind of like I got a lot out of it, which hasn’t been happening as much.”

Niemann and Young were well clear of the field when the afternoon wave of players, including Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas started play.

Past Genesis champion Adam Scott was in third place at 9 under after a 65.

Niemann’s lone PGA Tour title came in the 2019 Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Niemann said it feels like it’s been forever since he won, but he won’t put any pressure on himself to get win No. 2.

“Obviously you play this game to try to win every week, but you know how hard it is to win here and how competitive they are, how many good players there are here. You have to be patient and just wait for my week,” he said. “There’s still a lot of golf to go. There’s 36 more holes to go, so a lot of things can happen there.

“Just try to not think about it, who’s going to be up there with me or who’s going to be coming from behind, just try to worry about my game, try to worry about my shots and I think it should be all right.”

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