Niemann opens with 66 to lead at Kapalua

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Fresh off his Presidents Cup debut, Joaquin Niemann of Chile brought fresh confidence and plenty of form to Maui by opening the year with a 7-under 66 for a one-shot lead over Justin Thomas after the opening round Thursday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Niemann is one of 15 first-time winners on the PGA Tour last year who are playing the rejuvenated Plantation Course at Kapalua for the first time. He knew his way around just fine in weather that might be as good as it gets all week.

He missed only one green and saved par. After a 30-foot birdie on No. 4, which he called his best shot of the day, his other six birdies were all from 10 feet or closer.

Thomas, who won at Kapalua three years ago, played bogey-free and made five birdies over his last eight holes for a 67. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler were at 68, with defending champion Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay among those another shot back.

Only nine players in the 34-man field of PGA Tour winners failed to shoot par or better.

Niemann didn’t win a match at Royal Melbourne — he went 0-3-1, twice facing two of the best U.S. partnerships — but thrived on the stage under International captain Ernie Els.

“The Presidents Cup was one of my best experiences since I turned pro,” he said. “I shared a lot of moments with the best players in the world. I got Ernie as a captain. That is just awesome. I think that week was really special for me. He told me that it’s going to be really helpful for my career, for my future.”

It appeared to help in the first round of the new year, and Niemann had plenty of company.

Warm sunshine and moderate wind for these parts also helped. The wind was reasonable enough for the tour to use all the new back tees that were part of the refinement project.

Kapalua still provided its usual punishment for missed shots, however.

Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner at Kapalua, made six birdies and an eagle. That was barely enough to offset his double bogey on the par-5 ninth and four other bogeys, most of them because of wild tee shots. He had to reload on No. 9. He went into the waist-high grass left of the 12th, right of the 14th and had only seven pars. That added to a 72.

Cantlay had few complaints after a 69. His only mistake was a tee shot into the weeds right of the third hole for a double bogey. He made a 30-foot eagle putt two holes later and didn’t drop a shot the rest of the way.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Central alberta farmers hope for heat

80 per cent good to excellent crops

Pet photo contest to help raise money for Central Alberta Humane Society

Central Alberta Humane Society’s Fur-Ever Friends Pet Photo Contest is underway. Those… Continue reading

40 charges laid: Semi hauling mobile home pulled into Red Deer after several complaints

Violations include vehicles were missing insurance and licence plates

Fatal motorcycle collision near Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake RCMP continue to investigate

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Bitcoin scam nearly costs local man $90k

It was a simple sign that saved the day for one almost-… Continue reading

Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre set to reopen July 20

The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre at Red Deer College is… Continue reading

Bears trying to live with people, but it still isn’t enough: study

Bears in populated areas have changed how they hunt

Alberta to streamline approvals for new private clinics to boost surgeries

“Our proposed changes will provide more voice and choice to Albertans and physicians”

Alberta justice minister cleared in ethics case tied to oil funding inquiry

“They were simply acquaintances in Calgary who occasionally communicated”

Opinion: Virus hastens cashless society

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted retailers to ask customers to wear masks,… Continue reading

Betts: Baseball didn’t do good job with response to Floyd

LOS ANGELES — Mookie Betts wasn’t moved by Major League Baseball’s response… Continue reading

Most Read