Niemann remains at the helm but Rahm is lurking in Mayakoba

Mark McGowan
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Joaquin Niemann (Photo by Scott Taetsch/LIV Golf)

Mark McGowan

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Torque GC Captain Joaquin Niemann has popped champagne bottles atop the LIV Golf podium after team victories but never for an individual title. Now he’s 18 holes away from a dual celebration.

Niemann backed up his opening-round 12-under 59 with a solid one-under 70 in windy conditions during Saturday’s second round at LIV Golf Mayakoba. At 13 under, he’ll take a four-stroke lead over Jon Rahm and Dean Burmester into Sunday’s final round at El Camaleon.

“Obviously in 18 holes there’s a lot that can happen,” said Niemann said after his four-birdie, four-bogey round. “I’m just looking forward for that day. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to play with Jon, which is going to be my first Sunday against him, and I was looking for that for a while.”

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Rahm, the reigning Masters champ making his LIV Golf debut this week along with his expansion team Legion XIII, shot a four-under 67 that he described as a “fantastic day on a much tougher golf course.” He hit a field-best 16 of 18 greens and made several par putts from five-to-seven feet after an early bogey.

“I’m just happy that on my first start I have a chance to win. It’s that simple,” Rahm said. “After having as much time off as I did, I’m always confident in myself, but I wasn’t sure I was going to come out, and to start this way, I’m very, very pleased.”

Burmester’s five-under 66 was tied for low round of the day. Like Niemann, he’s celebrated a team win last year as a member of the Stinger GC but not an individual win. He’ll be in the final group off the first tee with Niemann and Rahm.

“Look, he’s the guy to catch,” Burmester said of Niemann. “There’s no better place to be than right behind him and watch what he’s doing because that can dictate what you need to do sometimes.”

It was a disappointing day overall for Graeme McDowell, though having covered the opening 12 holes in six-over, he stuck to his guns and managed to birdie three of the last six, turning a potential seven or eight-over round into a respectable three-over, leaving him in the midfield region in a tie for 34th.

Niemann’s week could get even better if things pan out properly on Sunday as his Torque GC leads the team competition at 15 under, five strokes ahead of Rahm’s Legion XIII. Smash GC, with its revamped lineup that includes 2023 Individual Champion Talor Gooch, had the lowest team score (-8) on Saturday and moved into solo third.

For the first time in LIV Golf’s regular season, all four rounds will count towards the team scores on Sunday, thanks to a format change for the 2024 season. Torque will be looking for its fifth team victory overall, having won a league-leading four times last season.

“There’s a lot of golf to play,” Niemann said. “There’s four scorecards we’ve got to post tomorrow, which makes it more interesting.”

FULL SCORING

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