MAYAKOBA RECAP: NIEMANN WINS INDIVIDUAL TITLE IN PLAYOFF; TORQUE ENDS UP THIRD
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Torque GC fell short in pursuit of double victories at the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba on Sunday but captain Joaquin Niemann was able to celebrate the Spanish-speaking team's first ever individual LIV Golf League title after an epic playoff with Sergio Garcia.
In the gathering gloom at El Camaleon Golf Course, Niemann calmly rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe of the 18th green to beat Garcia at the fourth extra hole with the darkness guaranteeing that no further playoff holes would have been possible until the next day.
Niemann's breakthrough win was icing on the cake for Torque who secured a podium finish at Mayakoba by placing third at 17-under, behind Crushers GC (20-under) and the triumphant expansion team Legion XIII (24-under).
For Niemann, it was a magical moment after he had started the week by firing a spectacular 12-under 59 to lead the field by five strokes before waking up on Sunday morning to the news that he had been docked two shots by the Rules Committee for taking an incorrect drop from a cart path during Saturday's second round.
"It was a lot of different days," an emotional Niemann said after being showered in champagne by his jubilant teammates on the 18th green. "Obviously the first day coming with expectations, I was playing good. First tournament of the LIV season, and I was expecting a lot from myself. I was able to manage myself through the golf course really well and ended up shooting 59, which was a dream.
"Then Saturday was a really tricky day. The wind got up. I was in the lead by a few strokes, and I think it was a little bit harder to play well after that first round ... then Sunday started a little bit different because I got a two-shot penalty, which was a little bit hard to swallow at the beginning. But then I knew that I had to change the situation and not let the situation beat me. I think it gave me more energy to go out and fight and prove to myself that it's not going to bother me. "
Despite not playing his best golf for much of Sunday at El Camaleon, Niemann hung tough. He hit a superb approach to inside three feet to set up a birdie at the par-four 12th and move two strokes clear at 12 under before being caught at the top when Garcia rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-3 15th.
The closing stretch was a roller-coaster for Niemann. He bogeyed the par-4 14th to slip back into a tie for second place with Jon Rahm and Dean Burmester before Rahm sank a six-footer for birdie at the 15th to join Garcia at the top.
Niemann bounced back with a birdie at the 16th to join Rahm and Garcia in a three-way tie at the top, and then squandered chances for outright victory on the next two holes. He narrowly missed an uphill 10-footer for birdie at the par-4 17th and then, with the tournament on the line, he rifled a brilliant approach to eight feet from the flag at the 18th before his birdie putt slid past the left side of the cup.
"I wanted to make that last putt so bad that I probably started it a little bit too far left than I was supposed to," said Niemann, who led the Mayakoba field in birdies (with 17) and greens in regulation (with 41).
"The last putt, when it was super dark, it probably helped me just not being so picky on picking my spot and just looking at the hole, getting a feeling and just getting it there. It was the best way to end it. I wanted to make a putt on the last one to win."
Torque, who won a LIV Golf League-high four regular-season tournaments last year, were very happy to also celebrate a collective podium finish on Sunday after all four players had carded matching scores of 1-under 70.
Sebastian Muñoz mixed five birdies with four bogeys to share 13th place at 5-under while Mito Pereira finished in a tie for 43rd at 4-over with new signing Carlos Ortiz, who had a topsy-turvy round that included five birdies, a bogey and triple-bogey at the par-5 fifth.
"It would have been nice to have a team win, and I feel a little bit alone here," smiled the 25-year-old Niemann from Chile. "But we still had a good finish. We were kind of outside the top six for much of the day, and then the guys started making some birdies and we ended up in the top three.
"It's a good finish for the team. I think we've got a lot more to prove during the season, and it's nice to take that first win for an individual as a team."