Chile’s rising star Niemann wins first PGA Tour event by six shots

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Joaquin Niemann fired a closing round of 64 early yesterday to capture The Greenbrier by six strokes and become the first Chilean to win on the US PGA Tour.

The 20-year-old Niemann roared home with three straight birdies on his final three holes, capping it off with a 25-foot bomb on 18 at the Old White TPC course in Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

He is the youngest non-American winner on the Tour since 1923 and the first third round leader to hold on and claim  this event.

Niemann was overcome with emotion while being interviewed by a television reporter as he walked off the green at 18 and realised the magnitude of his victory.

“I have been thinking about this my whole life. I don’t even think I realise what happened today.

“It’s crazy. I am really happy for all the support, my family, my coach …. It’s just crazy, sorry,” he said through tears of joy before walking off camera.

Niemann finished with a 21-under par total of 259, six shots ahead of American Tom Hoge, who shot a 65.

Brian Harman, Harris English, Nate Lashley and Richy Werenski finished in a tie for third at 14-under.

The tournament moved from its traditional spot in July to September to kick off the fall schedule for the 2019-20 PGA season.

Joaquin Niemann poses with his trophy after winning The Greenbrier golf tournament. PHOTO: AFP

Niemann started quickly on his back nine, rolling in three birdies on his first four holes, including a challenging sidewinder putt on the par-five 13th.

He also posted birdies 16 and 17 before saving his best for last as he made a 25 footer on the final hole to boost his lead to six strokes.

“My game was feeling great and mentally I was awesome. I was just feeling like I was going to win this tournament from the first day,” he said.

The win also earned him spots in the 2020 Masters and the PGA Championship.

Niemann recorded his first win in his 44th start on the PGA Tour.

It is a remarkable victory for the rising star. He won at a younger age on US soil than Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia or Rory McIlroy.

“It has been unbelievable for my whole country they were watching me. I got a couple of texts from them,” he said. “So I am really happy to get the trophy for my family, for my coach, and everyone back there in Chile. It doesn’t get any better.”

Niemann had a stellar amateur career, winning the 2018 Latin America Amateur Championships, and was the top ranked amateur from May 2017 to April 2018.

He has nine career top-10 PGA finishes, including two ties for fifth last season.

Defending champion Kevin Na shot back-to-back 68s last Saturday and Sunday and finished in a tie for 14th.

Kevin Chappell, whose second-round 59 last Friday was just the 11th sub-60 round ever produced on the PGA Tour, stumbled to the finish with final rounds of 73 and 72.