A tournament dating back to 1926, the last time the Genesis Invitational saw a wire-to-wire champion, man was still six months away from landing on the moon for the first time. That was in 1969. Now, we have robots on Mars and Joaquin Niemann, a 23-year-old Chilean star, led after each round of this year’s Genesis, winning by two over world No. 2 Collin Morikawa and Tour rookie Cameron Young.
With the entire top 10 of the OWGR in the field, world No. 32 Niemann smashed the tournament record when he opened the week with a pair of 63s. He looked to put even more space between himself and the rest of the field, when he eagled the par-4 10th hole on Saturday, reaching 5-under through ten holes in that round. He looked less immortal after that stretch, playing the rest of the third round 2 over, but through 54 holes, Niemann was at 19-under par, three clear of Young, and six clear of anyone else.
On Sunday, Niemann played the front nine the way someone with a large lead would be expected to: conservatively. In the golf version of the prevent defense, he bogeyed 7 and birdied 8 to make the turn even-par for the day.
Then, as he had done the previous two days, Niemann carded an eagle, with this one coming at the par-5 11th, which increased his lead over Young to five strokes, as the 24-year-old American was just even-par through 11 holes. The tournament looked like it was over at that point, and it appeared that the rest of the talented field was playing for second.
But then things got interesting. Niemann failed to card another birdie for the rest of the round, and when he bogeyed both 14 and 15, Young and Morikawa, the reigning Open Champion Golfer of the Year were back in striking distance. Morikawa had began the final round eight strokes behind Niemann, but exploded mid-round on Sunday with birdies on 7 and 9, and an eagle on 10. When he birdied 16 and 17, he was just two behind Niemann.
Morikawa had a chance to cut that lead to one on the final hole, but narrowly missed a 10-foot birdie attempt after a tremendous approach. Morikawa finished the final day with a field co-low 6-under 65 to reach 17-under for the week. With a two-stroke lead on Morikawa and Young, Niemann calmly put the tournament away with a par and the two-stroke win. His final round tally was an even-par 71, a far cry from his opening 63s, but enough to secure his second career PGA Tour title. His previous win occurred in West Virginia, when he took the 2019 A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier by six strokes.
With tournament host Tiger Woods watching, 12 months after a terrible car injury that has prevented him from playing competitive golf since, Niemann finally realized the potential he showed when he stood atop the world amateur rankings for a staggering 44 weeks.
At 19-under 265 for the week, Niemann was just a stroke short of the 72-hole tournament record set by Lanny Wadkins back in 1985, making it the event with the longest-standing tournament record score.
Young shot a 1-under 70 to finish T2, the second time he has recorded that result in nine starts of his rookie season. At October’s Sanderson Farms Championship, he finished one stroke behind Sam Burns.
2022 Genesis Invitational
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Joaquin Niemann -19 (E)
2. Collin Morikawa -17 (-6)
2. Cameron Young -17 (-1)
4. Adam Scott -14 (-5)
4. Viktor Hovland -14 (-1)
6. Justin Thomas -13 (-1)
7. Maverick McNealy -12 (-2)
7. Scottie Scheffler -12 (-2)
9. C.T. Pan -11 (-4)
10. Chez Reavie -10 (-5)
10. Rory McIlroy -10 (-3)
10. Max Homa -10 (E)
13. Xander Schauffele -9 (-1)
15. Paul Casey -8 (E)
21. Jon Rahm -7 (-6)
26. Will Zalatoris -6 (E)
26. Jordan Spieth -6 (+1)
33. Tony Finau -5 (-3)
33. Cameron Smith -5 (-1)
33. Patrick Cantlay -5 (E)
39. Hideki Matsuyama -4 (-1)
39. Abraham Ancer -4 (E)
39. Sergio Garcia -4 (+1)
55. Francesco Molinari -2 (-3)
55. Rickie Fowler -2 (E)
How Joaquin Niemann Won The Genesis Invitational
Opening the week with a pair of 63s gave Niemann a large margin of error over the weekend, and while he did not play the final two rounds nearly as well as the first two, he minimized the mistakes and made sure nobody was able to catch him.
Niemann’s 21 birdies for the week was tied for fourth best in the field, and he eagled one hole in each of the final three rounds. He bogeyed three holes in each of his weekend rounds after just one bogey apiece in his first two.
Niemann led the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and was second in strokes gained around-the-green. He actually lost 3.7 strokes to the Sunday field with his putter, but again, he did what he needed to in order to stay out front.
Joaquin Niemann’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 296.6 yards (64th)
Fairways: 44.6%, 25/56 (50th)
Greens: 65.3%, 47/72 (16th)
Putts/GIR: 1.553 (2nd)
Birdies: 21 (4th)
SG Tee to Green: 14.113 (1st)
What the Win Means For Niemann
It means Niemann has arrived. It’s not like this was his first great week on Tour, but notching his second career win on a difficult track with a stacked field, brings further legitimacy to his young career.
A long-time No. 1 amateur, Niemann stated after the round that he has a goal of being No. 1 in the OWGR, and this helps him significantly, jumping him from 32nd to 20th, a career high. In addition, he moved to seventh in the FedExCup standings.
Niemann will also be considered a real threat in the major season this year. In 11 major starts, he has been disappointing, with a best result of T23 at the 2020 U.S. Open.
Joaquin Niemann’s 2022 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 8
Wins: 1 (Genesis)
Additional Top 10s: 2
Earnings: $2,822,257 (4th)
FedExCup Pts: 792 (7th)
OWGR Before/After: 32/20
Sunday’s Stars at Riviera
One of the biggest surprises at Riviera this week was the lack of contention from World No. 1 Jon Rahm. A 2-over 73 in the second round was Rahm’s first over-par round since last July, and he ended up making the cut on the number.
The reigning U.S. Open champion followed that up with a pedestrian 1-under 70 in round 3 that had him sitting in a tie for 60th place going into the final round. Round 4 was a completely different story as Rahm rocketed up the leaderboard with a bogey-free 6-under 65, tying Morikawa for the low round in the Sunday field. He ended up rising 39 spots up the final leaderboard into a share of 21st.
Adam Scott is a two-time Genesis Invitational winner emerging victorious two years ago, 15 years after winning it for the first time in a 2005 playoff. He has also finished runner-up twice in this event. The 41-year-old Aussie’s familiarity with Riviera was palpable on Sunday, as Scott carded two eagles in a 5-under 66 to move from T10 to T4 on the final leaderboard. He has now posted seven top-10s in 14 Genesis starts.
The only other 66 in the field came from 40-year-old two-time PGA Tour winner Chez Reavie. Starting on the back-nine, Reavie had an eagle and five birdies to put together a round that allowed him to rise 23 spots from T33 to T10, his first top-10 on Tour since a T3 at last season’s opening event, which occurred in September of 2020. It was Reavie’s only top-10 in 30 starts last season.
Sunday’s Stumbles in L.A.
A year ago, Max Homa won the Genesis Open, on his hometown course, with a gutty performance where he bounced back from a 72nd hole bogey to knock off Tony Finau in a playoff. Homa again found himself in the mix at Riviera, opening the week with a 5-under 66. This time, he again bogeyed 18 on Sunday, but this time it meant a drop of four places on the leaderboard from T6 to T10 after a disappointing even-par 71. In Homa’s favor however, is that this is the ninth consecutive round at The Genesis where he ended the day in the top 10 on the leaderboard.
12-time Tour winner Jordan Spieth opened the week well, putting himself firmly in the mix with a 66-67 start. However, a Saturday 73 took away any hope he had of catching Niemann, and on Sunday, he was just one stroke better, carding just one birdie in a 1-over 72 that dropped him from T18 to T26. After ten birdies and an eagle over his first two rounds, Spieth had no eagles and just two birdies on the weekend.
Another University of Texas product who was also T18 heading in Sunday, Beau Hossler had the single biggest drop of anyone in round 4 when a 4-over 75 caused him to plummet all the way into a tie for 48th. Hossler failed to birdie a single hole on Sunday, carding two bogeys and a double.
“Oh my God, this weekend, it took me forever… it felt like a month. I’m so happy it’s finally done, and I’m really proud of the way we battled with my caddie Gary, all the hard work. This is amazing, and seeing the Chilean flag right there, it gives me a little more speechless. It’s awesome!”
– Joaquin Niemann, Genesis Invitational Champion