Written by
LIV Golf Staff
Feb 02 2024
- 7 min
Niemann wave Bynder

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – On a day in which reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm made his debut as captain for the expansion Legion XIII team, history was made by LIV Golf’s youngest team captain.

Torque GC’s Joaquin Niemann got the 2024 LIV Golf League season off to a flying start with a 12-under 59 in Friday’s opening round at Mayakoba. In setting the El Camaleon course record, Niemann also becomes the second player in LIV Golf’s first 23 events to card a sub-60 round. Last year, Crushers GC captain Bryson DeChambeau shot a 12-under 58 at Greenbrier.

“It was obviously an amazing round,” said the 25-year-old Niemann from Chile. “I played solid since the beginning, and I never stopped playing good.”

Thanks to his career-low round, Niemann has a five-shot lead over Patrick Reed (64) going into the weekend. Sergio Garcia is another shot back. Those three will be in the leaders group off the No. 1 tee Saturday; the shotgun start for the second round has been moved up to 12:45 p.m. ET.

Rahm is tied for fourth with Laurie Canter and Richard Bland after shooting a 66 that started fast with five birdies in his first seven holes but ended with his only two bogeys of the day.

“I feel like one of those bogeys, 17, was avoidable,” Rahm said. “18 was just unfortunate. But it doesn’t take away from how good I played those 16 holes.”

Thanks to Niemann’s fireworks, Torque has the team lead at 13 under, with the revamped Cleeks GC tied for second at 8 under with Reed’s 4Aces GC. Torque won a league-leading four times in the regular season last year.

After opening his round with a par on the second hole, Niemann birdied the next five holes, made one par and followed with two more birdies before holing out from the fairway for an eagle-2 at the par-4 11th. At that point, he was 9 under through 10 holes.

He said for most of the day, he was unaware exactly where he stood in relation to breaking 60. When he reached the 12th hole, he said he wasn’t sure if the course was a par 71 or 72 and “I didn’t want to do the math.”

But already at 12 under when he got to the 18th hole, his next to last, he heard shouts from the crowd to go for 58. That’s when he realized it was a par 71. “Wow, I’m right there,” he recalled.

Rahm, who was playing in the group behind Niemann, received a quick display of how talented his fellow competitors are in his new surroundings.

“What is it now, 23 LIV Golf events, there’s a 58 and a 59? It’s pretty impressive,” Rahm said. “… I would confidently say that I would have a bet a lot of money against a 59 here this week, just because of how narrow the fairways are.”

Told about Rahm’s comment, Niemann smiled as he offered the perfect retort: “He owes me money, then.”


Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Mayakoba. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1.TORQUE GC -13 (Niemann 59, Muñoz 68, Pereira 73)

T2. CLEEKS GC -8 (Bland 66, Samooja 69, Kaymer 70)

T2. 4ACES GC -8 (Reed 64, Johnson 67, Varner III 74)

T4. STINGER GC -6 (Burmester 67, Oosthuizen 70, Schwartzel 70)

T4. RIPPER GC -6 (Leishman 68, Smith 69, Herbert 70)

6. CRUSHERS GC -5 (Howell III 68, Casey 70, DeChambeau 70)

T7. LEGION XIII -4 (Rahm 66, Surratt 71, Hatton 72)

T7. FIREBALLS GC -4 (Garcia 65, Ancer 72, Puig 72)

9. IRON HEADS GC -3 (Vincent 69, Na 70, Lee 71)

10. SMASH GC -1 (Koepka 69, McDowell 71, Gooch 72)

11. RANGEGOATS GC E (Watson 69, Pieters 72, Wolff 72)

12. HYFLYERS GC +1 (Tringale 69, Ogletree 72, Mickelson 73)

13. MAJESTICKS GC +4 (Stenson 71, Horsfield 72, Poulter 74)


RAHM ENJOYS HIS LIV GOLF DEBUT: Legion XIII Captain Jon Rahm stood on the first tee to start his first round as a LIV Golf member. He had picked out the song he would tee off to – and his heartbeat started to race.

“I could feel the pressure,” Rahm said, “but that’s a good thing, right?”

Rahm delivered with a 5-under 66 that left him tied for fourth, albeit seven shots behind Joaquin Niemann’s 12-under 59.

Rahm started with a birdie and was 5 under through seven holes before his momentum slowed. Still, he enjoyed the vibe of his first LIV Golf event, and certainly enjoyed playing with Talor Gooch and Cameron Smith, the top two players from last year’s Individual Championship race.

“Two of the nicest people you can get paired with,” Rahm said.

Rahm’s Legion XIII team is tied for seventh at 4 under. LIV’s youngest player, 18-year-old Caleb Surratt, contributed an even-par 71 in his professional debut while Tyrrell Hatton and Kieran Vincent each shot 72 (with Hatton’s round counting).

Rahm acknowledged checking the leaderboard to see his teammates’ scores. “The first few times, I was more interested in how the team was doing than myself, which was definitely something new,” Rahm said. “I think Cam caught me looking. He said that it’s crazy how you might care more about the team that you individually.”

SERGIO ON NIEMANN: Crushers GC Captain Sergio Garcia will start Saturday’s second round six shots back of the lead. He knows the tournament is in Joaquin Niemann’s hands now.

“There’s nothing you can do,” Garcia said. “It’s as simple as that. You’ve got to go out there, and it’s not easy to shoot 6-under on this course, so don’t even think about 12. … If Joaco goes out there and shoots 3- or 4- under and 3- or 4-under on the weekend, there’s nothing really to do.”

NEW PLAYERS: Of the nine players making their debuts as LIV Golf full-time players, Jon Rahm had the lowest score with a 66. Cleeks GC’s Kalle Samooja, the LIV Golf Promotions champion, posted the next lowest with a 69 to help the Cleeks finish the day tied for second in the team standings.

Ripper GC’s Lucas Herbert shot a 70; Legion XIII teenager Caleb Surratt and Iron Heads GC’s Jinichiro Kozuma, shot 71s; HyFlyers GC’s Andy Ogletree and Legion XIII’s Tyrrell Hatton and Kieran Vincent shot 72s; and Cleeks GC’s Adrian Meronk shot a 75.

OLD FACES, NEW TEAMS: Of the seven returning players who switched teams during the offseason, none made a significant impact on the leaderboard.

Smash GC’s Graeme McDowell (formerly of the Cleeks) had the best score with an even-par 71, while his teammate, 2023 Individual Champion Talor Gooch (formerly of the RangeGoats), shot a 72.

David Puig (formerly of Torque, now with Fireballs) and Matthew Wolff (formerly of Smash, now with RangeGoats) also shot 72s. Harold Varner III (formerly of RangeGoats, now with 4Aces) shot a 74. Torque’s Carlos Ortiz (formerly with Fireballs) and RangeGoats’ Peter Uihlein (formerly with 4Aces) shot the two highest scores, 76 and 79 respectively.

WILD CARDS: Laurie Canter and Hudson Swafford are the two independent players in the field of 54, not playing for a specific team but competing for individual prize money and points in the Individual Championship race. Canter got off to a solid start with a 5-under 66 while Swafford shot 70.

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