Niemann his the front at LIV Jeddah

Mark McGowan

Joaquin Niemann (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)

Mark McGowan

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Chilean Joaquin Niemann has opened up a two-stroke lead ahead of the third and final round at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club thanks to a bogey-free 64.

The 25-year-old has been on a roll of late, winning the Australian Open back in December to become the first LIV player to taste DP World Tour success since making the move, and then followed up with victory at the 2024 season-opening LIV Mayakoba, firing a first-round 59 in the process, and he’s now just 18 holes away from making it two wins in three and taking his LIV season earnings over the $8 million mark.

Starting the day on hole number two, he reeled off six successive pars before opening his birdie account on eight, and then added further birdies on 10, 12, 15, 17 and 18 to cap off a highly-impressive day.

“It was a great day,” Niemann said afterwards. “Way better day than yesterday. The way I started I was obviously playing great. I started with seven pars in a row and I didn’t get off to a hot start like I did yesterday, and I kept playing better and better during the day. I really take positive the way I played at the end of the last couple holes today.

“Everything is going a little better. I think my driving since Australia has been so good. I’ve been able to hit all the trajectories that I want to and been confident with those and be aggressive off the tee. Hitting that high draw more often that I normally do. Doing that shot, I gain at least 20 yards on the other routine low cut that I had before.

“Being confident with that high draw I think has helped me a lot being confident on the rest of my game so I can be more aggressive off the tee, on my second shots. Also, everything is going better. Around the green, I feel like I’m chipping a lot better. I think that’s something that I still need a lot of work. I know I can get a lot better around the greens, and I think that’s what you need to play really good and consistent golf, especially in the majors.”

Charl Schwartzel began his tournament by birdieing each of his opening four holes and eventually shooting seven-under, and the South African followed up with a four-under second round to move into second place, two off the pace set by Niemann.

Jason Kokrak will join them in the final group after the big-hitting American shot the lowest round of the day, making nine birdies with just the one bogey to pull alongside Louis Oosthuizen in a tie for third.

Jon Rahm, who started the day tied for the lead with Adrian Meronk, struggled in the middle section of the round, making back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 having taken sole possession of the lead, and eventually signed for a one-under 69 to lie in a four-way tie for fifth alongside Meronk, Abraham Ancer and Lucas Herbert.

Graeme McDowell moved up three places into a tie for 47th with a one-under round that leaves him on one-over for the tournament. The Portrush man birdied four holes but dropped shots on three, including his penultimate hole.

Anthony Kim continues to struggle on his return, making two double-bogeys and covering his opening four holes in five-over, but he recovered to play his final 11 holes in level par, but he props up the now 53-man field following Matt Wolff’s withdrawal.


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