Why LIV Golf leader arrived to course — and was hit with 2-shot penalty

Joaquin Niemann

Joaquin Niemann on Saturday on the 13th hole at El Camaleon Golf Course.

CW Network

Joaquin Niemann, who left LIV Golf’s tournament on Saturday with a four-shot lead, returned on Sunday with it sliced in half. 

The culprit was a two-shot penalty after a video review of a Saturday afternoon drop at El Camaleon Golf Course. Notably, it improved Jon Rahm’s chances of a win in his debut in the Saudi-backed league — the move dropped Niemann from 13-under and up four over Rahm and Dean Burmester, to 11-under and leading by two entering the final round. 

The sequence started after Niemann’s second shot on the 532-yard, par-5 13th. From a divot, he had pushed a hybrid right, and his ball rolled over a cart path and into a penalty area. From there:

— Niemann took lateral relief from the penalty area, and onto the cart path, which he is allowed to rule under Rule 17.1d (3). On Sunday, LIV Golf’s broadcast on the CW Network showed part of this. 

— Niemann then took relief from the cart path. He attempted to measure a club length to the left, which he is allowed to do under rule 16.1. On Saturday, the broadcast showed this. 

— He took a step to the left of that. It appeared that he was looking for a more favorable lie. He dropped. His ball finished to the left of the club length. 

— He hit onto the green, and that triggered the two-shot penalty, under Rule 14.7a. Rule 3.3b (3) was also in play, according to a LIV Golf release on Sunday morning. That rule reads this way: “If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because they excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard, the player is not disqualified. Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, the Committee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules.”

After the round, according to the LIV Golf release, the LIV rules committee said it “became aware” of a possible infraction. On Sunday, on the LIV broadcast, analyst Jerry Foltz said Niemann’s agent was told of the penalty, Niemann arrived on Sunday, worked out, then met with officials, where his par five on the hole was changed to a double-bogey seven. 

And his lead moved from four to two. 

Below is the complete release from LIV Golf on the infraction:

“Saturday evening, following the play of Round Two, the Rules Committee became aware of a potential rules violation pertaining to Joaquin Niemann and his drop from the cart path on the Par-5 13th hole.

After reviewing the drop with Joaquin on Sunday morning prior to the Final Round, it was determined that he had played from a Wrong Place after taking relief incorrectly. Joaquin failed to drop within his one-club length relief area. The penalty for playing the ball from a Wrong Place is The General Penalty (2 Strokes) under Rules 14.7a. Under the Exception in Rule 3.3b(3), the Rules Committee revised Joaquin’s score for Round Two to include the 2-Stroke Penalty on Hole 13 from a 5 to 7.”

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.