MEXICO CITY – Chilean Joaquin Niemann defeated Sergio Garcia in a play-off to capture LIV Golf’s Mayakoba event on Feb 4.
Niemann, who shot a stunning 59 in Friday’s first round, clinched the victory, as darkness fell, on the fourth play-off hole.
The 25-year-old, who missed putts to win on the 18th in regulation and then again on the first two play-off holes, sank his putt from the fringe before being soaked with champagne.
The play-off pair had been offered the choice of playing one last hole in the badly deteriorating light or finishing their duel on Feb 5.
To the delight of the Mexican crowd at the El Camaleon course, near the popular resort of Playa del Carmen, they decided to play on.
Garcia’s approach shot found deep rough behind the bunker but the Spaniard’s chip whistled past the flagpole and left him with plenty of work to do for par.
In the end, though, it did not matter as Niemann finally made a birdie putt to seal his first win on the Saudi-backed LIV circuit.
Niemann, who will play in the British Open thanks to his triumph in December’s Australian Open, said he was delighted but hoped that the game’s authorities would find a way for him to compete in more majors.
“I’ve been seeing this (coming) for the last couple of weeks and on the practice grounds I saw myself making that last putt to win, so it’s freaking awesome,” he said.
“I want to win majors but I’ve got to get in first.”
LIV golfers are finding it increasingly difficult to qualify for majors given their performances are not counted on the Official Golf World Rankings.
Negotiations remain ongoing between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour with LIV’s owners, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, to complete a framework agreement for a merger unveiled last June.
It was a disappointing end for Garcia, one of the original rebels who joined the breakaway tour. he has yet to win on the LIV circuit and has now lost twice in play-offs.
Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, last won on the PGA Tour in October 2020.
He had finished tied after 54 holes on 12-under 201 with Niemann, two strokes ahead of compatriot Jon Rahm, the current Masters champion.
Rahm had a great chance to win the tournament but made bogeys on the final two holes to settle for third.
There was some compensation for Rahm, however, with his newly formed team, Legion XIII, winning the team competition. AFP