Joaquin Niemann wins Mayakoba playoff, Rahm gets team win
Joaquin Niemann of Chile sank a birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to defeat Sergio Garcia of Spain and win LIV Golf Mayakoba in the dark on Sunday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
After Niemann missed a birdie putt to win outright on the final hole of regulation, he and Garcia replayed the par-4 18th hole at El Camaleon Golf Course and made par three times over. With light fading fast, Niemann asked Garcia “play one more?” and the 2017 Masters champion agreed.
Garcia’s second shot on the fourth go-around proceeded to land near a spectator sitting in thick rough near a sand bunker. Niemann’s approach found the green, and after Garcia’s pitch out of the rough skidded past the hole, Niemann buried the winning putt.
“At the first playoff hole I didn’t think it was going to get too dark,” Niemann said. “I thought it was going to take a little bit — you never know what’s going to happen, but I was expecting to go as fast as I could.
“Then after that I hit my driver incredible the next three holes. My ball was within probably a radius of one yard. I saw my divot from the two holes before on the last hole. So I had the same number for the last three times, and that made it a little bit easier.
“After the last hole, I saw Sergio missing it right, which is not in a good spot, and I just told myself to give myself a chance and ended up hitting a good shot and making that putt, which was awesome.”
Niemann posted a final round of 1-under 70. Garcia made consecutive birdies at No 14 and 15 to tie Niemann at 12 under and made pars the rest of the way to card a 5-under 66.
Niemann, who began the season opener by shooting a 12-under 59, had a tough start to this day when he was assessed a two-stroke penalty on his second round. A review determined Niemann took an incorrect drop on the 13th hole Saturday, and his second-round 70 became a 72, cutting his four-shot lead in half.
“I told myself that I don’t want to let this situation beat me, and I tried to turn it around,” Niemann said. “The only thing I needed to do is just play golf. I still had a good chance to win the tournament.”
Meanwhile, newcomer Jon Rahm and his team, Legion XIII, locked up the team victory in their LIV Golf debut. Fellow LIV debutant Tyrrell Hatton posted a final-round 7-under 64, Caleb Surratt shot a 4-under 67 and Zimbabwe's Kieran Vincent had a 2-under 69.
Unfortunately for Rahm, the Spanish star’s bogey-bogey finish knocked him out of the running for a playoff, and his 70 was the lowest Sunday score on his team. But Legion XIII still finished 24 under for the week, four shots ahead of Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC.
Rahm said he jokingly told Hatton on the range it would be a nice day for him to shoot a 64, which the Englishman then proceeded to fulfil.
“This team was just assembled on Monday, I believe, Sunday or Monday,” Rahm said on LIV’s broadcast. “We come in and made an impact and everything was meant for that. We wanted to make a mark, make an impact, and I think everybody knows we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Rahm tied with SA’s Dean Burmester for third at 10 under. Hatton (7 under) was tied for eighth, Surratt (5 under) tied for 13th and Vincent (3 over) tied for 38th.
It was Rahm’s first LIV Golf tournament experience since leaving the PGA Tour for the third-year league in the off-season.
“It’s very nice, in a day in which in any normal tournament I probably would have been upset at my finish, to actually have something to celebrate,” Rahm said, “and that is one of the big reasons why I decided to transition, to share the stage with those three guys, to share the golf course with all the other teams and compete for something else is what it’s all about. It means a lot.”
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