Joaquin Niemann continues to dominate at the Genesis Invitational, sets new 36-hole scoring record

The Chilean leads rookie Cameron Young by two, but is five shots clear of the rest of the field at Riviera Country Club.

Pity Jordan Spieth in this week's Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club.

It's his favourite golf course and when he carded a morning wave first round 5-under-par 66 he shared the clubhouse lead - and yet by the time he started his second lap on Friday afternoon he trailed the tournament leader by nine blows.

Chile's Joaquin Niemann backed up his superb first round 63 with the same score in his second circuit to set a hot pace in Pacific Palisades. His 16-under 126 total is a tournament 36 hole record and leaves him two blows clear of Cameron Young (66-62).

Justin Thomas (67-64) is in third, but fully five strokes adrift of the pace-setter while Spieth eventually added a 67 to his opening score to share fifth with Adam Scott (68-65) on 9-under. World No. 2 Collin Morikawa (67-67) is alone in sixth another shot back.

"Didn't sleep much," Niemann admitted after his second round. "It was pretty late when I finished (the first round) and we started pretty early, but we got it going pretty good at the beginning.

"I really like the way I handled myself out there after been playing good the front nine. Everything is working pretty well and obviously I'm making a lot of putts right now."

Was there any secret to maintaining the hot pace of the first day? "Just able to keep it calm," he said. "Stayed calm with my emotions, try to just feel the same. The same way I feel on Thursday, try to make it the same on Friday."

Can he convert the win? Let's take a closer look.

Niemann with a lead and at Riviera

The man himself admitted: "There's still a lot of golf to go. There's 36 more holes to go, so a lot of things can happen there. Just try to not think about it, who's going to be up there with me or who's going to be coming from behind. Just try to worry about my game, try to worry about my shots and I think it should be all right."

His halfway total is not only the event's low score, but it is also his career-best tally through 36 holes - it betters the 127 in his only previous victory on the PGA Tour at the 2019 A Military Tribute at Greenbrier.

This is his second career solo halfway lead. On the previous occasion, in the Abierto de Chile on the 2019 LatinoAmerica Tour, he carded 71-66 at the weekend to finish third.

Three times previously he has shared a 36 hole lead on the PGA Tour. He responded with 70-73 at the Memorial in 2018 for sixth, with 68-68 for second (after a play off) in the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, and in-between with 68-64 for that victory at Greenbrier.

Mixed messages from that past experience of a lead, then.

Slightly less ambiguous news from his weekend logbook at Riviera. He carded 72-74 in 2019 and 78-72 last year for an average of 74.00. He'll need better than that this Saturday and Sunday.

Riviera halfway leaders

There was a time when the halfway pace-setters had a superb record in this event.

Mike Weir converted in 2004, so did Rory Sabbatini in 2006 and Phil Mickelson in 2008, with Adam Scott winning (albeit unofficially) the 2005 event when it was reduced to just 36 holes.

But in the last 13 editions of the event 16 men have held or shared the lead at this stage and only Dustin Johnson (in 2017) converted.

The last two years are ones Niemann might wish not to recall.

12 months ago Sam Burns led by five at this point and failed to convert. A year earlier Matt Kuchar was two clear. He was also caught and passed.

Here's another startling stat: since 1996 only one halfway leader in this tournament has carded two sub-70 rounds at the weekend.

That doesn't determine that Niemann will fail at the weekend, rather it suggests he will be tested by (at least) one remaining round, when the scoring is less straightforward. Bearing up to that test, plus whatever pressure the chasers can apply, will determine his fate.

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