Niemann shot an eight-under 63 at Riviera Country Club, combining nine birdies with a single bogey to match the tournament’s lowest first round in history and climb to the top of a crowded leaderboard.
“I think it’s got to be one of my best days on the golf course, especially in a place like this with this history,” Niemann said. “You always know that you’re never going to have these days four days in a row, but it’s a good way to start.”
Niemann started the back nine with back-to-back birdies, then made up for a three-putt bogie at the 12th by holing from off the next green and adding three more gains at the turn. Niemann took the lead after a fantastic tee shot at the par-three fourth hole set him a close-range birdie. The Chilean then picked up a stroke on his following hole and added another at the seventh to pull away from the rest of the field.
Tiger Woods, the event host, went from being a 15-time major champion to being the first player off the tee. He wanted to present Aaron Beverly, who qualified for the elite field thanks to the Charlie Sifford exemption. The tournament commemorates the 100th anniversary of Sifford’s birth when he became the first Black golfer to win on the PGA TOUR.
The event has been promoted to enhanced status, which means it now has a $12 million purse and a three-year exemption for the winner. When you combine it with Riviera’s veneration, it’s no wonder that all 10 of the world’s top 10 players are competing, as well as 19 of the top 25.