Niemann eyeing rapid rise to TOUR cardNiemann is tied for the lead at 7 under with Matsuyama and Ancer
May 31, 2018
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
Joaquin Niemann interview after Round 1 of the Memorial
DUBLIN, Ohio – Only a few months ago Chile’s Joaquin Niemann was seemingly still a mountain away from life on the PGA TOUR despite being the world’s best amateur.
But after an opening round 7-under 65 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide the 19-year-old has an excellent chance at joining a small group of players to bypass the pathway Tours and go directly to the main stage.
Now in just his fifth professional start Niemann will take the overnight co-lead with Hideki Matsuyama and Abraham Ancer. He has already finished sixth at the Valero Texas Open and was tied eighth at the Fort Worth Invitational.
As such he has earned 180 non-member FedExCup points, which would rank him 144th in this season’s FedExCup standings. He can earn his card for the 2018-19 season if he finishes in the top 125.
Niemann already has clinched a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals, and he needs just 89 points to earn special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions this season in his chase for a card.
If successful he would join the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth to make the rapid leap to the PGA TOUR.
“I don't like to think about that. I just want to be out here and enjoy my round and try to play my best and see how it goes,” he said.
“I have been playing really well, so my game is feeling really nice. And after those two top-10s, I have gained a lot of confidence in my game.
“It has been all really quick. Two months ago I was playing the Masters as an amateur and right now I've already played four tournaments as a pro and it feels really nice. I just really am enjoying what I'm doing now… being out here, playing with the best players, it can't be any better.”
WOODS SALVAGES LATE HOPE. Tiger Woods appeared headed for the back end of the leaderboard after he dropped four shots in his opening seven holes on Thursday but the 79-time PGA TOUR winner and five-time winner at the Memorial Tournament was able to rally late. Still 3 over through 13 holes Woods rattled off three straight birdies to get it back to even par. “Didn't really feel my swing very well and consequently I hit it both ways, mainly left,” Woods said. “I wasn't rotating very well. Kind of made a few tweaks, a few changes, made a couple birdies, made a couple putts and lo and behold I finished at even par, which I know it's a long way back, but at least I've got a fighting chance.” Woods admitted his surgically repaired back was feeling tight all round. “I have days like that. My back is fused. I'm going to have days where it's just tight,” he said. “Unfortunately today was one of those days and that's all right. I don't have any pain, thank God. It's just tight. So, no biggy.”
BEAU KNOWS THURSDAYS. Beau Hossler continued his trend of impressive starts on the PGA TOUR with an opening 6-under 66. Coming into the week his Round 1 scoring average sat at 69.25 – a stat that has helped him to three top-10 finishes this season and 41st position in the FedExCup. Unfortunately for Hossler his averages get progressively worse as the rounds go on – sitting at 69.95 in Round 2, 70.65 in Round 3 and 72.18 in final rounds. “I think I've played a number of really quality rounds on the weekend as well. So I feel like this year has been a lot of up-and-down,” Hossler said. “I feel really comfortable with where I'm at. I played great on the weekend in Houston, pretty much flawless, really. I have tons of confidence from closing out tournaments from junior and Amateur golf and college golf. It's not a concern of mine. Obviously, I noticed a trend, but at the same time I think I'm on the right track and I've just got to stick with what I'm doing.”
HIDEKI FINDS HIS GROOVE. A year ago Hideki Matsuyama had two wins and was second in the FedExCup at this stage of the PGA TOUR season but it has been slim pickings thus far in 2018. That is, until now. Matsuyama produced his best opening round of the season with a 7-under 65 catapulting him into a tie for the lead. His round included a shank but also seven birdies, two bogeys and a hole out eagle from 137 yards. Currently 81st in the FedExCup it was a welcome return to form for the 2014 Memorial Tournament winner. “I had some good rounds there at the AT&T Byron Nelson (72-63-71-66) and had some momentum coming into my off week, had a real good week of practice back home, came here, and I couldn't find it again,” he said. “But this morning I had a good warm-up session and as the round went along I played better and better. It has been frustrating. In the past even if I wasn't playing well I could still get it around, get it in the hole. So the last couple of months have been trying. I'm just really glad that I was able to play well today and post a good score at the start.”
ABRAHAM ANCER – Mexico’s top male golfer tied his career best PGA TOUR score with a 7-under 65 to share the lead. At 106th in the FedExCup this season Ancer is in great position to strengthen his Playoff hopes.
JASON DAY – The Columbus area resident and Muirfield Village member put up a 4-under 68 to set up a good chance of finally obtaining an elusive top-10 finish at his home course.
DUSTIN JOHNSON – The big-hitting Johnson was unable to break a streak of pars across the back nine leaving him with an even par 72.
JUSTIN ROSE – The 2010 Memorial champion and winner last week at the Fort Worth Invitational was a little scratchy on the way to a 1-under 71. Rose stunned onlookers early with a stone-cold top followed by a shank in consecutive shots on the par-5 15th hole.
JASON DUFNER – The defending champion had a rough time of it, carding a 3-over 75 with four bogeys and just one birdie.
PHIL MICKELSON – Lefty was looking great at 4-under through his opening eight holes but dropped six shots in his final 10 holes to shoot 74.
JUSTIN THOMAS – The FedExCup leader battled hard in his roller coaster round of 72.
JORDAN SPIETH – Spieth’s struggles continued with a 3-over 75.
RORY McILROY – The Northern Irishman was unable to ride his momentum from a good showing in Europe, opening with a 74.
QUOTABLESIt was just like a normal fever. Probably more of a man-cold, to be honest. But I feel like I'm dying every time I'm sick, so my wife just looks at me and laughs at me.I don't like heights, so I wouldn't jump out of a plane. But driving fast, I really love.It was a guessing game.
Low round: 7-under 65 by Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann and Hideki Matsuyama.
Longest drive: 381 yards – Dustin Johnson par-4 17th
Longest putt: 57 feet, one inch – Jordan Spieth par-4 1st
Toughest hole: The par-4 9th (4.300) yielded just 10 birdies but had 25 bogeys, seven double bogeys and two others.
Easiest hole: The par-5 5th (4.583) saw an eagle and 61 birdies.
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of Round 2 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Hideki Matsuyama’s hole-out eagle approach at the Memorial