DUBLIN, Ohio – Joaquin Niemann heads into the final round of the Memorial Tournament in a tie for second, one shot off the lead. But at age 19, he can achieve a great deal even if he comes up short of a breakthrough victory.
Niemann held his own in the crucible of the final pairing, shooting a 2-under 70 that was highlighted by a 48-foot eagle on the seventh hole. An errant approach to the par-5 15th found the hazard and cost him a share of the lead, but he got a stroke back with a birdie on the final hole to move within one of Bryson DeChambeau.
“It felt very nice being out there in the last group being Saturday,” Niemann said. “I felt really nice since the first tee. I didn’t play well enough, I think, but still really nice for what is coming tomorrow. So I feel good for tomorrow.”
Niemann is making just his fifth start as a professional, but he already has top-10 finishes at both the Valero Texas Open and Fort Worth Invitational to his credit. Those results gave him 180 non-member FedExCup points entering the week, and it means that the Chilean teen has a pair of cutoffs in play during the final round.
Niemann needs 89 more points, or a solo seventh-place finish or better, to unlock special temporary membership. That would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invites for the rest of the season, although he has only had to use two of his allotted seven invites to this point.
A loftier goal would come with another 165 points, which would mean finishing alone in third or better. That would give Niemann the equivalent of No. 125 on last season’s points list, thereby clinching a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.
It’s a rarely-used express path to status, bypassing Web.com Tour Finals and accessed recently by Jordan Spieth (2013) and Jon Rahm (2016). But heading into a round that could bring a number of benefits within reach, he prefers to focus on the task at hand.
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m just thinking on this week and trying to do my best on Sunday. I’m not thinking about what can happen if I can get the status.”