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LIV Golf League: Joaquin Niemann cards historic '59 round' to lead Jon Rahm's debut in Mayakoba

Masters champion Jon Rahm is seven shots off the pace in fourth place after the opening round of his LIV Golf League debut; Joaquin Niemann leads Patrick Reed by five strokes in Mexico after a 12-under 59 on Friday

Captain Joaqu..n Niemann, of Torque GC, hits from the seventh tee during the first round of LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camale..n Golf Course, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Jon Ferrey/LIV Golf via AP)
Image: Joaquin Niemann leads after a stunning opening-round 59 in Mexico

Joaquin Niemann produced a stunning '59 round' to build a five-shot lead at the LIV Golf League season opener in Mayakoba, where Jon Rahm impressed on debut.

Niemann carded an eagle and 10 birdies in a bogey-free round in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, to register only the second sub-60 total since LIV Golf launched in 2022.

The Chilean - beginning on the second hole at the par-71 layout - fired five consecutive birdies from the third and followed back-to-back gains from the ninth by holing out for eagle at the par-four 11th.

Niemann took advantage of the par-five 13th and added further birdies at the 15th and 17th to move to 12 under, with a par-par finish breaking the course record and giving the Torque GC captain a commanding advantage over closest challenger Patrick Reed.

"It was obviously an amazing round," Niemann said. "I played solid since the beginning and I never stopped playing good. I gave myself a few chances over the last couple holes to go even lower, but still really, really happy."

Reed birdied his last four holes to close a bogey-free 64 and grab second ahead of Sergio Garcia, who mixed eight birdies with two bogeys during his opening-round 65.

Patrick Reed, of 4Aces GC, looks on from the 18th tee during the first round of LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camale..n Golf Course, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)
Image: Patrick Reed is in solo second after a bogey-free start to the week

Rahm made a fast start to his LIV Golf debut, having signed from the PGA Tour in December to captain the all-new Legion XIII team, with the Masters champion birdieing five of his opening seven holes.

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The Spaniard was seven under with three holes remaining but a bogey-bogey finish dropped him back to tied-fourth alongside English duo Laurie Canter and Richard Bland.

"I think it's almost impossible to be 100 per cent sure of how you're going to play, but I'm always confident that I can perform," Rahm said. "I feel like one of those bogeys, 17, was avoidable. 18 was just unfortunate. But it doesn't take away from how good I played those first 16 holes.

(L-R) Caddie Adam Hayes, LIV Golf CEO, Greg Norman and Jon Rahm of Legion XIII GC talk on the first tee during the first round of the LIV Golf Mayakoba at the El Camale..n Golf Course on Friday, February 02, 2024 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)
Image: Jon Rahm spoke with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman ahead of his opening round

"It was nice to get off the jump, just get going and play good golf. So far I would say it was a very successful start."

Dustin Johnson and Dean Burmester share seventh place on four under, while PGA champion Brooks Koepka started with a two-under 69 on a day where only 25 of the 54 players finished under par.

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