Niemann harnesses Presidents Cup confidence at Sentry Tournament of Champions
January 02, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Joaquin Niemann closes with birdie on No. 18 at Sentry
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Joaquin Niemann’s recent Presidents Cup appearance has steeled the young Chilean with further confidence he says is invaluable.
While Niemann failed to win any of his four matches at Royal Melbourne as part of Ernie Els’ International Team (0-3-1), he did walk away from the biennial team competition flush with self-belief.
The evidence of which is already showing as the 21-year-old opened the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a 7-under 66 to hold the first round lead at the Plantation Course in Kapalua.
“The Presidents Cup was one of my best experiences since I turned pro. It was an unbelievable week,” Niemann said. “I shared a lot of moments with the best players in the world. I got Ernie as a captain. That is just awesome. That week was really special for me.
"Just being around good players, it gives you a lot of learning, and playing against the United States… they've got almost every player inside the top 10. It just gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I'm able to beat them if I play good.”
Niemann, of course, wasn’t short of confidence after opening the 2019-20 PGA TOUR season by winning A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, booking his ticket to Maui in the process.
But he wasn’t always confident that his junior prowess – which saw him spend almost a year as the world’s best ranked amateur – would translate to the PGA TOUR. That was until he had four top-10s amongst his first eight TOUR starts as a professional.
“When I turned pro, I remember I was a little scared. I didn't know if I was going to be good enough to compete on TOUR,” Niemann admitted.
“But after the first week I played really well, I figured out that if I played well, I can be on top of the leaderboard. I knew that I just had to be patient. I knew that I was doing things right, I just needed to wait for that week that I make every putt and hit every shot good so I can win. When I did… it was a great week and unbelievable feeling.”
Before the win, Niemann also experienced the lows of not contending for a lengthy period. After a T10 in November 2018 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, he failed to have another top 25 finish until the Travelers Championship in June 2019.
The slump had him go from a certainty for Els International Team to a player in need of a captains pick. Els already had him in mind for selection after he found his form with back-to-back T5’s last summer, but the win in September sealed the deal.
Even so, he admits the first tee at Royal Melbourne was as nervous as he’s ever felt in golf and could only chuckle how he missed the very wide fairway. But that pressure – and watching closely how the U.S. Team owned the big moments in their comeback 16-14 win – has Niemann itching for another chance at it.
“Ernie told me that (the Presidents Cup) is going to be really helpful for my career, for my future. I'm going to feel some type of different pressure in that week, and I felt that for sure,” Niemann added.
“You can see how (the Americans) make putts in the best moments, and that's the difference between the best players in the world. They know how to react in those difficult moments under pressure.
“It was a good learning experience and I just can't wait to go back in two more years and try to beat them.”