After Brooks Koepka withdrew on Saturday with a wrist injury, the field at the Tour Championship was whittled down to the odd number of 29. This meant Joaquin Niemann, who sat alone in last place (29th) after three rounds at East Lake, would tee off first and alone on Sunday morning.
With a payday of nearly a half million ($405,000) already guaranteed, even for finishing 29th, the young Chilean decided to have some fun.
“I was in last place and wasn’t going to win,” said Niemann. “I was pretty far behind from the guys in front of me, so I was like, let’s make it fun and have fun.”
While jogging to his ball and running between holes, Niemann finished all 18 at East Lake in one hour and 53 minutes – six minutes faster than Kevin Na’s 2016 record.
The 22-year old teed off at 11:40 a.m. and was finished more than 30 minutes before the final 1:55 p.m. tee time of Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay.
According to the PGA Tour, the quickest round in history is one hour and 29 minutes, set by Wesley Bryan at Conway Farms for the 2017 edition of the BMW Championship.
Asked how he convinced his caddie, Gary Matthews, to play fast golf, Niemann said it was his caddie who was more focused on breaking the record.
“He was more convinced than me I think,” said Niemann. “On the back nine, he was like, we got to rush it. We got to break the record. And he start running and give me numbers and then doing some short cuts. It was cool.”
Matthews said they packed a lighter bag than usual, knowing they were going to try to break Na’s record.
“Funny thing is last night we were told that we were going to be on one ball, tried to find out what the record was and when I heard 1:29.
“I texted him last night, I said ‘There’s no chance we’re doing that.’ But then I heard Kevin Na was 1:58 around here.
He added, “I don’t know, 25 pounds maybe (weight of bag). But definitely lighter than usual. I definitely knew that I needed to have it a bit lighter.
“He had three golf balls. He didn’t have the usual nine. He didn’t have a rain cover. He didn’t have any little instruments that we had. He only had one glove, five tees.
“Not much shakes and stuff like that in the bag. Umbrella was gone.”
Afterwards, in the scoring text, PGA Tour official Andy Pazder attempted to play a joke on the pair, and, wearing a mask to hide his facial expression, said, “Listen, Joaquin, as a professional, you’ve disrespected the game, you’ve disrespected the Tour Championship. This is not how professionals act, and Gary you’ve been out here a long time and you should know that and here is a fine for $10,000.”
But Niemann became so incensed that Pazder was forced to end the skit before it get too raw.
“I look at him like, I was burning inside,” Niemann said. “I was going to say something and he’s like, ‘All right, forgive me. Before you say something, I was just kidding,’
“I was like, ‘Oh, I hate you.’ He gave me a really hard time.”
Niemann said he’s taking the month off and will start his 2021-22 season at the Shriners event in Las Vegas (Oct. 7-10).