PACIFIC PALISADES (CNS) – Chilean Joaquin Niemann holds a two-shot lead over American Cameron Young entering today’s third round of the $12 million Genesis Invitational after a second consecutive 8-under 63 gave him the tournament’s 36-hole record of 126.
Niemann began his round at The Riviera Country Club Friday with an eagle on the 503-yard par-5 first hole and followed that with a birdie on the 471-yard second hole. He also had birdies on the seventh, ninth, 11th, 12th, 14th and 17th holes. His lone bogey came on the par-4 10th hole.
“I think everything is working pretty well,” Niemann said after recording the best 36-hold score in his 101 starts on the PGA Tour. “Obviously
I’m making a lot of putts right now. I feel I’m starting my ball online with the putter. When you have greens this good when you start your line, I think you’ve got a good chance of making putts, so I think that’s been big this week.”
Niemann broke the previous record of 130 shared by four golfers, most recently Sam Burns last year. Burns followed his record two rounds with a 3- over 74 in the third round and 2-under 69 in the fourth to finish third, missing the playoff by one shot.
Niemann is seeking to be the tournament’s fourth wire-to-wire winner and first since Charlie Sifford in 1969.
This is the fourth time Niemann has led or shared the lead of a PGA Tour tournament, including in the 2019 A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, his lone victory. Four second-round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win The Genesis Invitational since 2000, most recently Dustin Johnson in 2017.
Young had the day’s best round, a bogey-free 9-under 62, including four consecutive birdies from the sixth through ninth holes, his final four holes.
“I didn’t really even realize it until kind of I tapped in on nine,” Young said after becoming the first player to birdie holes six, seven, eight and nine in what is now The Genesis Invitational since Mark O’Meara in 1992.
Young described his birdie on the 433-yard par-4 eighth hole “like an escape.” He hit his tee shot into a gully, then hit his second shot 110 yards to the green to give him an 8-foot, 6-inch putt for the birdie.
“I was really just trying to hack it up on the front of the green and roll it up and it just came out really good,” said Young, whose 29 on Riviera’s front nine is the second in the past decade, with the other belonging to Johnson, who accomplished the feat in the third round of the 2018 tournament.
“Came out more like a normal shot than I thought it might. For it to end up the right distance is honestly a little bit of blind luck, which doesn’t always happen but today it did.”
Fellow American Justin Thomas is in third, five shots off the lead at 11-under 131, after a 7-under 64.
American Jordan Spieth and Australian Adam Scott are tied for third, seven shots off the lead. Collin Morikawa is one shot back in sixth after his second consecutive 4-under 67.
Morikawa, a 2015 La Canada High graduate, described his round as “very similar” to Thursday’s.
“Wasn’t hitting irons great, felt like I hit it a little bit better than yesterday, but short game and putting has kind of kept me in this first two days,” Morikawa said. “If I can remember how to hit some little cuts, I think we’ll be fine for the weekend.”
Morikawa would move up one spot into first in the Official World Golf Ranking with a victory and if Spaniard Jon Rahm finishes worse than a solo fourth-place finish.
“I think it’s still very doable,” Morikawa said. “I’ve just got to go out there and play hole by hole, shot by shot and see what happens for the third and fourth round.”
The field was reduced from 119 to 75 with the cutline coming at even- par 142. Rahm was among the golfers at the cutline after a 2-over 73 Friday ended his 34-round streak of rounds at par or better.
Patrick Cantlay, the 2010 graduate of Servite High School in Anaheim and former UCLA standout who is third in the Official World Golf Ranking, was also among the 16 players at the cutline, along with Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion who is ranked 10th.
The last time there was a 16-stoke margin between the leader and the cutline was in the 2019 PGA Championship.
The tournament is set to conclude Sunday. The winner will receive $2.16 million.