‘I was burning inside’: Pro falls prey to PGA Tour rules official’s post-round prank

Joaquin Niemann and caddie Gary Matthews at East Lake on Sunday.

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Pace of play (the slow kind) is a hot talking point on the PGA Tour. But on Sunday, Joaquin Neimann flipped the narrative on its head when, playing solo in the first group of the day at the Tour Championship, he looked more like Usain Bolt than Tommy Bolt.

With nothing but an open course ahead of him at East Lake GC, Neimann and his caddie, Gary Matthews, tightened their laces and made history, needing all of 1 hour and 53 minutes to finish 18 holes. It was the fastest round in Tour Championship history, edging Kevin Na’s 2016 mark by five minutes.

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If Neimann was expecting to celebrate his achievement with pats on the back in the scorer’s tent, he had another thing coming: some light-hearted (if sharp-edged!) needling from Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief of tournaments and competition, who greeted Neimann and Matthews with a stern look.

“Andy is sitting right there with the rules official,” Matthews recalled later, “and I looked at him, like, this is serious.”

A few moments later, Pazder beckoned over Matthews and Neimann, and here’s how Matthews recounted what came next:  

“He said, ‘Listen, Joaquin, as a professional, you’ve disrespected the game, you’ve disrespected the Tour Championship. This is not how professionals act, and Gary you’ve been out here a long time and you should know that and here is a fine for $10,000.'”

You could cut the tension with a 2-iron.

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“I look at him like, I was burning inside,” Neimann said. “I was going to say something and he’s like, ‘All right, forgive me. Before you say something, I was just kidding.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I hate you.'”

Boom, roasted! By a PGA Tour rules official! Didn’t see that coming.

To the long list of PGA Tour pranksters — Peter Jacobsen, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, et al. — you can now add one more name: Andy Pazder.

You can read more about Neimann’s historic round here.

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Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.