Some pros swagger their way into golf history. Some stride confidently as they cast their names alongside the very best players in the history of the game.
Joaquin Niemann sprints. And no, that’s not a euphemism.
On Sunday at the Tour Championship, the 22-year-old Chilean set the course record at East Lake. Or, more accurately, Niemann set a course record at East Lake. And perhaps most impressive of all? He did it and still managed to finish in last place.
So, how does a professional golfer manage to acquire a course record and a DFL in the same weekend? Well, he runs. And then he runs. And he runs some more. And then, one hour and 53 minutes later, he finishes running, because his round of golf is over.
Joaquin Niemann’s key to claiming a course record in a last place finish? Grab your stopwatch and start running.
Fans were delighted to see footage of Niemann, his caddie Gary Matthews, and a small group of scorers and standard-bearers running alongside one another as they huffed-and-puffed into the finish line at East Lake on Sunday. The one-time PGA Tour winner shot a pedestrian, two-over 72 — well, perhaps working-class 72 would be a better turn of phrase. But the score was no matter next to the outcome: the fastest round in East Lake history.
After a double-bogey on No. 8 that felt like it lasted “an eternity,” Niemann realized he might have a shot at the record.
“I didn’t know how fast I could get 18 holes, but on the front nine, I decided to play quick but not like crazy quick, not like rushing and hurrying up,” Niemann said (he played the front nine in an hour and three minutes). “But then they told me I did like just over an hour, I was like, ah, I’m just going to rush it and try to break the record.”
Rush, Niemann did, playing the back nine in 51 minutes to eclipse the record by six minutes.
“The best thing of the whole thing was we got to No. 15 and the group that was behind us was Cink and Matsuyama and they were teeing off 8,” Matthews, the caddie, said. “So that was pretty cool because we were trying to figure out how far we would be ahead of them and I think at the end we were trying to beat them before they got to 10.”
As it turned out, Niemann was merely the latest to attempt the East Lake sprint. Like the Turkey Trot, the course speed record has become something of a tradition. The outstanding record was set by Kevin Na in 2016, who earned acclaim for his efforts despite being one of the PGA Tour’s notoriously slow players.
So, how does it feel to be proud owner of both a last-place finish and a sub-2-hour round?
“I am tired,” Niemann said.