Joaquin Niemann fires first-round 66 to lead Sentry TOC; Justin Thomas one shot back

January 3, 2020

The first PGA Tour event of 2020 is off with a sea of red numbers at the newly revamped Kapalua Plantation course in Maui, Hawaii, and 21-year-old Joaquin Niemann leads the field by one shot after firing an opening round of seven-under-par 66.

It’s Niemann’s first appearance at the winner’s-only event, after he punched his ticket to Maui with a victory at last year’s A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. It was the first — and thus far, only — win of Niemann’s career. But perhaps not for long. The young Chilean posted a perfect round of golf on Thursday, carding seven birdies and zero bogeys.

“During the practice round, I knew it was going to be tough,” Niemann told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis after his round. “There was a lot of wind, on Tuesday especially, and today wasn’t that windy. I played great, I made a lot of [putts]. It was my day.”

Only one shot behind Niemann is 11-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas, who also posted a bogey-free round. Thomas had a slow start on the front nine with only one birdie, but lit up the back nine with five, including three of the last four holes. The Plantation course has good vibes for Thomas, who won the tournament back in 2017, then went on to win the following week’s Sony Open, too.

Other players in the hunt include Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler, who are two shots behind Niemann after opening 68s, and five players who are three shots back at four under par overall: Tyler Duncan, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Wolff, and defending champ Xander Schauffele.

Only nine players in the 34-man field shot over par on Thursday.

To receive GOLF’s newsletters, subscribe for free here.