On Thursday’s telecast, one of Joaquin Niemann’s chip shots in the first round of the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson was described as “wow, that’s dirty.” Niemann followed up his 5-under 67 in Round 1 with a mistake-free 7-under 65 on Friday morning for a 12-under total. As the afternoon wave begins the second round, Niemann is tied for fifth place and only three strokes behind the leader, Ryan Palmer.
While birdies are a prerequisite in low-scoring events, avoiding bogeys may hold equal importance. A dropped shot will see a player’s name leapfrogged on the leaderboard, and few have done better than Niemann in that respect. Carding only one bogey through his first 36 holes, Niemann is getting up and down at a 92% clip at TPC Craig Ranch. Top 10 in this category, it is worth noting the young Chilean’s short game hasn’t always been so clean. His ranking around the green has taken a dramatic step forward this season when compared to his previous three years
“You kind of have that mindset a little bit before the tournament,” Niemann said. “You know that before the start of the week… this is one of those courses where they score pretty low.” “I know 12 under was phenomenal, but sure,
That part of his game was a liability until this season. Niemann’s off-the-tee presence and streaky iron play were capable of propelling him into contention a few times each year, but around the green he was often searching for answers. 2021 saw Niemann finish runner-up on three occasions, and had he performed up to his current standard, the two-time winner on the PGA Tour would be at least a four-time victor.
I understand golf doesn’t work this way — growing pains are part of the process — but as a thought exercise, let’s pretend it does. What would Niemann’s résumé look like if he averaged +1.86 strokes gained around the green per tournament? That’s the current figure the 23-year-old boasts as he ranks 12th in said category on the PGA Tour this season (before the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson).
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