PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Joaquin Niemann became the second player in as many years with a sub-60 round at an LIV Golf League tournament, closing with two pars for a 12-under 59 at Mayakoba and a five-shot lead over 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed as the 2024 season teed off Friday.
The 25-year-old from Chile had a chance to match the third-year circuit's scoring record with one last birdie, but Niemann's wedge shot into his final hole — No. 1 at El Camaleon in the shotgun start — came up about 10 feet short of the green, and he took two putts for his first 59 in competition. Last year, Bryson DeChambeau shot a 58 in the final round at LIV-Greenbrier.
Niemann knew he was playing well, he just wasn't sure how much under par he was. The fact that par is 71 at El Camaleon didn't register with him until he was 12 under playing his final hole and heard shouts of "58!"
"I got to 12 and didn't realize it was 72 or 71 and didn't want to do the math," Niemann said. "People started to say, 'Go for 58.' Not my best wedge, but able to be under 60, which is cool."
It was the 52nd round in the 50s in professional golf around the world.
Niemann's 59 overshadowed the LIV debut of reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, the former PGA Tour star who signed in December in the biggest acquisition yet for the Saudi-funded 48-player league, which debuted in the summer of 2022.
Rahm, who is No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, opened with three birdies in four holes, but he had to settle for a 66, leaving him seven shots behind with two rounds to go in the 54-hole, no-cut tournament.
The 29-year-old Spaniard spent the past two weeks trying to fill his four-man LIV team, Legion XIII, getting Ryder Cup partner Tyrrell Hatton of England in the days before the season started.
"The golf course is always going to be the place I can be in control," Rahm said of the hectic buildup to his LIV debut. "I felt relaxed out there. It was similar to how I feel at home with music in the cart."
Niemann won twice on the PGA Tour before leaving after the 2022 Tour Championship. He has yet to win in LIV competition and struggled last year, finishing 26th on the money list in the 48-man league. He won the Australian Open during LIV's offseason, though, and showed no rust in the opener.
"Another round in the 50s shows that competition is not lacking here," Rahm said.
LIV began its third season with a few tweaks to its formats. There now are 13 teams with Rahm's addition, plus two wild-card entrants who play only as individuals to allow for threesomes to start on each hole.
For the team competition, the top three scores from each team count, with all four scores counting on the final day.