Joaquin Niemann leads the Genesis Invitational, Jordan Spieth heading the chasing pack

The Chilean ended the first round at Riviera Country Club three shots clear of Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa and Cameron Young.

Playing one of his favourite courses, in one of his favourite events, Chile's Joaquin Niemann carded a brilliant 8-under-par 63 to end the first round three clear of the field and admitted: "Yeah, that's got to be one of my best days on a golf course."

His nine birdie-one bogey lap of Riviera Country Club tied the tournament's first round record and gives him a second crack at lifting this title.

Because although at first glance his record is poor (T44th-MC-T43rd), he was second at halfway last year (and also T13th after 36 holes on debut in 2019).

What his opening circuit confirms is that he likes the course and can go low. It's a fourth sub-69 total in seven pre-weekend laps.

His task now is to ensure that his bad days don't escalate: in those previous visits he has struggled to keep big scores at bay. In fact, he is 0-for-4 at breaking par on the weekend and averages 74.00 (or 3-over).

With that in mind he warned: "It's a good way to start, but I know it's going to be different days during the week, so I've got to be ready for everything and have the best attitude for it."

The secret ingredients to his Thursday success? "I hit the ball great off the tee, my iron play was hitting it really close, the greens were pretty good and it wasn't that windy."

And the (literal) secret ingredient off the course? "I'm in a house with Carlos Ortiz, Mito Pereira, Sergio Garcia and Sebastian Munoz. We get a chef to cook for us. We have nice dinners and talk a lot. It makes the week a lot easier."

His quest for a second PGA Tour win will not be easy. The field is stacked behind him with three-time Major Champion Jordan Spieth, last week's winner Scottie Scheffler, defending champion Max Homa and Cameron Young tied in second after carding 66s.

Among those sharing sixth are Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Cameron Smith.

Spieth continues Riviera love affair

Two themes resonate whenever Jordan Spieth talks about Riviera: that he loves the place and that he's not quite patient enough for it.

Sure enough, after carding seven birdies and two bogeys in his opening gambit, he was back on theme.

"I love Riviera," he said. "I think it's in the conversation as the best golf course in the world.

"And I had a really good attitude today, I played this course with more patience than I typically do and you need that."

Even when he played army golf at the par-5 17th (left off the tee, right with his second shot, hacked on to the green, drained the putt for birdie), he felt he was reaping reward for his approach.

"The stuff that happened (there), you kind of get rewarded when you're in the right mindset. It's weird how it works like that. It's a lesson learned."

It's the second time Spieth has been tied second after 18 holes in his 10th visit to Riviera. He'll be hoping for no repeat of the first time, when he followed a 64 with two 70s and an 81.

History ought to make him feel relatively comfortable ahead of the second round: since carding a level-par 71 on debut to miss the cut he has always bettered par on Friday and in four of those eight laps he went sub-70.

Home boy

It took Max Homa a little while to transfer his own huge affection for Riviera into excellent returns, but he's now doing it in some style.

A regular visitor to the course and tournament as a boy, he missed the cut in his first two appearances, was T37th in his third and opened with a 72 to lie T65th in his fourth.

Since then he added 69-65-70 to land tied fifth, carded 66-70-70-66 to win last year, and has now opened with another 66.

That said, he was not expecting such a strong start to his defence of the title when his alarm went off.

"I woke a little antsy," he admitted. "Probably just too much in my head. But when I got to the range, felt really good. Then got to the tee and I was waiting around. I knew they were going to say 'defending champion' or whatever, so that was different.

"It was cool, I got a nice ovation. I've been on this tee a million times watching and playing. So to get to hear that was pretty special.

"The game feels really good. I did everything pretty well today and I putted really well inside five feet, which was key.

"I just tried to make it as boring as I could and just keep hitting good shots."

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