Joaquin Niemann with Tiger Woods, host of Genesis Invitational; Niemann with fans. Pic: Getty Images
Standfirst: Former world amateur No. 1 Joaquin Niemann of Chile secured an emphatic wire-to-wire victory at The Genesis Invitational, a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, at Riviera Country Club over the weekend. The 23-year-old, who became the fourth golfer in history to lead from start-to-finish and the first since Charlie Sifford in 1969, describes the joy of winning his second PGA TOUR tournament which featured the top-10 golfers in the world.
Oh my God, this weekend feels like it took me forever … it felt like a month! I’m so happy it’s finally done. I’m so really proud of the way I battled, all the hard work and this is amazing. Seeing the Chilean flag out here, it makes me a little more speechless, it’s awesome. I think it’s one of those courses that you need do everything right; you have to hit it good off the tee, you have to hit your irons pretty good and you’ve got to putt unbelievable, especially on these type of greens because they’re so fast. I was more surprised at how good I handled myself. I know I didn’t play my best golf like I did during the first two days (63-63), but I was impressed with the way I handled it. Looking back, I think a couple tournaments ago that I didn’t win, I think my attitude wasn’t the same as this here, so that is one big positive change.
There are no words to describe this win. It was such a nice week off the course, and on the course. Every night, we’re having dinner with my friends, Sergio Garcia, Carlos Ortiz, Mito Pereira, everybody is here, and there is nothing more important than that. I’m very thankful. They’re awesome. All the Latinos, it makes our life easier, more fun, more entertaining. Obviously we play 30 weeks a year and out of those 30 weeks a year, you want to spend as much fun as you can. We stay together, we play practice rounds together. We’re really unified all together and we have a great relationship. Knowing that they’re there for me, waiting to see me receiving the trophy was something really special. I’m really thankful and happy because of the friends that I have.
This is one of the toughest golf courses we ever play during the year. It’s got the best field, the best players are here and that proves to myself that I can compete with the top guys. I can be up there in the world ranking. I think it’s going to give me a lot of confidence for what is coming next. I think at the beginning of the year, I just started playing great golf at Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open). Coming into Riviera, I was feeling really confident about my game and I was able to handle it during the week. After the first two days, I said to myself, ‘we have to finish this, stay focused’ and we did it pretty good. I was just thinking about I want to win, I want to win. I had the confidence to say that because I was feeling great and I was hitting the ball great. I think some tournaments before I didn’t trust myself as much as I did this past week. I proved to myself I can have that confidence to be up here and to battle with the top players in the world. I proved myself a big thing.
Obviously everyone’s here to compete against the best players in the world. I’m here to do the same. I want to compete with the best players in the world, I want to be No. 1 one day. I think there’s nothing better like what I’m feeling right now. Winning a PGA TOUR event, getting a trophy, having Tiger Woods there, all the history, there’s nothing that can compete with this. It was awesome having Tiger there. I haven’t seen him since probably a year ago. Everybody knew what happened (with Woods being involved in a single-car accident), which was pretty sad. Being able to see him doing as well as he’s doing is awesome. He’s one of my idols. I’ve always watched him on TV and I still do. Having Tiger on site and receiving the trophy from him is special.
It was also amazing because it would have been the 100th birthday for Charlie Sifford and he was the last winner winning wire-to-wire here. Being the same year he’s turning 100 is some coincidence. You can see all the history here in the clubhouse. Obviously it was a long time ago, I was not even close to being born! It’s nice to see all the history behind this tournament. I think it’s one of the oldest tournaments we have on TOUR. Having obviously people like Charlie, that he won here and being honoured because of his birthday, you never know, probably in 100 more years I’ll be there.
There was a lot of Latinos, a lot of Chileans, out on course so you can feel the support from them. They were cheering differently than the people here. It was special to have them there and spend some time with them. They followed me the whole round and I got to spend one minute with the trophy and take a picture. I think I made their day.
I also want to thank the support of my coach, my dad, my mom, my family, the federation in Chile. Everybody in Chile did a great job of helping me out, and got me competing around the world because I knew I was good in Chile. I was winning tournaments, but obviously you want to be here on the PGA TOUR. You want to compete in America because in America, you’ve got the best players in the world, in junior and amateurs, and everywhere. So I think to have the opportunity to come to the United States when I was probably 14 and start playing tournaments, competing with other players from my same age, I think that was something that I needed to do and it worked out well.
You know, I went back to Chile probably all of December and two weeks of January. It was probably a little more than a month and we did a lot of everything. It’s something that I like to do every year, and go back to my normal life. I’ve been over here for a little more than three years and it is a hard life obviously, especially for us that we don’t live in the U.S and being far from home. It’s nice to go back once in a while, see my friends, see my family, do what I used to do when I was 16. I think I needed to bring some energy to my body and it was better now.
Note: Joaquin Niemann has moved up to seventh place on the FedExCup ranking and you can watch him and the stars from the PGA TOUR on Eurosport and GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR.