No joke as Joaquin Niemann sets unofficial record for fastest Tour Championship round

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

For all the fun, Joaquin Niemann was about to get angry. Like he’d just been handed a $10,000 fine angry.

Good thing he can take a joke.

Niemann set the unofficial record for the fastest round at the Tour Championship by circuiting East Lake Golf Club in an hour and 53 minutes in the final round Sunday. Niemann played by himself as the first group out after Brooks Koepka withdrew on Saturday, leaving the field at 29 players. He shaved six minutes off the previous mark, set up Kevin Na in 2016 at 1:59.

Upon completing his round, PGA Tour officials called Niemann and his caddy over for a word in the scorer’s tent. It sure sounded ominous.

“Listen, as a professional, you have disrespected the game,” they said. “You have disrespected the Tour Championship. This is not how professionals act. … Here’s a fine for $10,000.”

Niemann said he was burning inside and just about to say something, when he was informed it was all a gag.

It was Niemann’s intent just to play quickly — despite being prodded by caddie Gary Mathews and his young standard bearers. When told he had finished the front nine in 1:03, it was time for a little fun. He made it around the back nine in 50 minutes. That included a birdie at the par-3 15th.

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Niemann finished the speed round with a 2-over 72 and the tournament at 4-over par, last place among finishers.

“It’s been a long three or four weeks,” Niemann said. “I wasn’t playing my best golf this week. I decided I was in last place. I wasn’t going to win. I was pretty far behind so let’s just make it fun.”

Stewart Cink and Hideki Matsuyama were in the group behind Niemann. When he got to the 15th, Cink and Matsuyama were on the 8th hole. They could see each over the lake with a nod of recognition. As Cink and Matsuyama were walking to the 10th tee box, Niemann putted out on the 18th — a full nine holes in front. Mathews collapsed on the green in jest following the final putt. The two walked off the green arms around shoulders — perhaps for necessary support.

“It was funny to see him running across the green and he and his caddie running out through the tunnel over to 16 tee,” Cink said.

Mathews said he took most everything extra out of the golf bag to get it to around 25 pounds.

“Definitely lighter than usual,” Mathews said. “I knew I had to have it lighter. He had three golf balls instead of the usual nine. He didn’t have a raincoat. He didn’t have any of the little instruments that we have. He had one glove, five tees. Umbrella was gone.”

The got quite a following as the round went out. There was applause coming from corporate tents on the back. Mathews said they estimated about 10 spectators running down the 18th fairway that felt like the famous horde that followed Tiger Woods to his victory in 2018.

The record for the fastest round on the PGA Tour is held by Wesley Bryan, who played the final round of the 2017 BMW Championship in 1:29, while shooting 1-under par. Niemann and Mathews knew there was no chance to set that mark but figured they’d make a run at Na’s mark at the Tour Championship.

“I am tired,” Niemann said with a big smile after the round.