Rory McIlroy and Séamus Power both got off to solid starts on the first day of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club where Chile’s Joaquin Niemann was the star of the show.
Four birdies and two bogeys led to a two-under 69 for McIlroy, with Power one shot behind him after a 70, but Niemann was untouchable after he shot an incredible eight-under 63 to lead by three.
McIlroy got off to a strong start with a birdie at the first, which at just 504 yards is almost a gimme birdie given it is a par-five, but after rescuing a couple of pars and then missing an eight-footer for birdie at the seventh, his first bogey arrived when he failed to make up-and-down from the side of the green.
He took advantage of the short par-four 10th and the par-five 11th to start his back nine in perfect fashion with back-to-back birdies and get up to two-under, but a wayward approach at the par-four 13th saw him drop his second shot of the day.
But back-to-back sand saves at the par-three 16th for par and par-five 17th for birdie saw him get back up to two-under, and a straightforward par down the last saw him back into the clubhouse with a 69.
Meanwhile, Power claimed he did “nothing” well despite opening with a solid one-under 70, headlined by a roller coaster six-hole stretch after the turn.
The Waterford man followed a double-bogey on the 10th with an eagle at the 11th and a further two birdies and two bogeys in his next four holes for an eventful first round that left him less than impressed with his performance.
“It was a bit so-so all day long. There wasn’t really anything special going on and it was a bit frustrating. But one-under, all in all, is not too bad I guess,” said the 34-year-old.
When pressed on what he did well, Power added: “Nothing. I made a couple of mistakes in all parts so I have a bit of work to do this afternoon to get it back to where I want.”
After birdieing his opening hole, Power would par his way to the turn, with his only genuine birdie look coming from seven feet on the ninth, which slid wide.
But on the back nine his round took a turn for the wild, the former Barbasol Championship winner going from greenside bunker to greenside bunker on the short par-four 10th which led to a double-bogey, but then immediately getting it back when he hit his second shot at the par-five 11th to 11-feet, holing the putt for eagle.
A monster 43-foot putt on the par-four 12th followed for another birdie, but a three-putt at the par-four 13th and another failed sand save at the par-three 14th led to back-to-back bogeys to drop him back to level-par.
Power holed out from off the green at the par-four 15th to get back to one-under, ending a remarkable stretch of scoring, and he would play out his final three holes with pars to sign for a 70.
That leaves him seven adrift of Niemann, who put on a masterclass on day one at Riviera as nine birdies and just one bogey led him to an eight-under 63 that has him three ahead of Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth.
The 23-year-old was so good that his two nine hole scores – both four-under – were only bettered around 18 holes by Scheffler and Spieth as he tied the lowest first round score in Genesis Invitational history, as well as his career-high birdies in one round on the PGA Tour.
Niemann began the day as he meant to go on, starting at the 10th and birdieing three of his first four holes – with his only dropped shot of the day coming in that stretch too, at the 12th – before he added further birdies at 16 and 17 got him one off the lead.
He quickly moved into the solo lead with birdies at the first and fourth and rounded off his day by furthering his advantage with two more birdies at the fifth and seventh, signing for an incredible 63.
Behind him, Scheffler continued his strong form from last week’s Waste Management Open win by opening with an eagle, four birdies and a bogey in a five-under 66 to sit alongside Spieth, who had seven birdies and two bogeys.
- Full scoring HERE