2022 AT&T Byron Nelson: Joaquin Niemann continues to shoot a strong short game as the PGA Championship approaches

Wow, that’s filthyIt was the phrase used on telecast Thursday to describe one of Joaquin Niemann’s chip shots in the first round of AT&T Byron Nelson’s 2022. In the end, signing him 5-under 67 in Round 1, Niemann backed things up Friday morning without 7-under errors. 65 – good for a total under 12. Now, Neiman finds himself in a tie for fifth and only three strokes short of the pace set by Ryan Palmer as the afternoon wave begins the second round.

“You know that before the start of the week … this is one of those courses where they score really low, so you kind of have that mentality a little bit before the tournament,” Neiman said. “I know their 12-year-old was really impressive, but yeah, you know they’re going to drop a lot in four days.”

While birds are a prerequisite in low-grade juveniles, ghost avoidance may be just as important. You’ll see the shot that was dropped jump the player’s name up the leaderboard, and few have been better than Niemann in this regard. Niemann only passes one bogey through his first 36 holes, and he gets up and down the 92% clip at TPC Craig Ranch. Top ten in this category, it is worth noting that the Chilean youth’s short match was not always so clean. His ranking around the green has taken a huge step forward this season compared to his previous three years:

  • 2022: 12
  • 2021: T138
  • 2020: T152
  • 2019: 102

That part of his game has been a burden until this season. Neiman’s presence off the tee and his striped iron play were able to get him into contention a few times each year, but around the green he often looked for answers. 2021 saw Niemann finish second on three occasions and had he performed by his current standards he would be a two-time winner of the PGA Tour at least Four times victorious.

I understand that golf doesn’t work that way – growing pains are part of the process – but as an intellectual exercise let’s imagine it works. What would a Niemann CV look like if he averaged +1.86 hits earned around the green per turn? That’s the current number the 23-year-old boasts as he ranks 12th in said category on the PGA Tour this season (before AT&T Byron Nelson started).

2018 Texas Open




2018 Memorial Tournament




2018 Greenbrier Classic




2019 John Deere Classic




Wyndham Championship 2019




2021 Champions Championship




2021 Sony Open




2021 Honda Classic




2021 Wells Fargo Championship




2021 PGA Championship




2021 classic mortgage rocket




It’s not perfect math, and I’m sure 2018 Memorial Prize winner Bryson DeChambeau will find flaws in it, but that’s not the point. This is simply to show how good Niemann is and with the addition of being around the green he will be currently better than every top 10 player in the official golf rankings.

Niemann is enjoying a career season because of his short game, not though, as shown by his victory at the Genesis Invitational, posting +5.04 hits earned around the green. In a major tournament-caliber field in a large tournament-type venue, this kind of improvement will likely be a team-maker not only at AT&T Byron Nelson, but at the 2022 PGA Championship next week.

Justin Thomas said after his expedition to the Southern Hills earlier this week. “And it’s hard to shoot the ball. I mean, the balls roll out of the green, and they go very far. You get some lovely high greens where it’s hard to get the ball around the hole and over the course of the tournament which can be very little. And the person who I think does that. The best will have the best chance of winning.”

If you told Nieman this past year, there’s a good chance some doubts have crept into the back of his mind. However, the aspect of his game that prevented him from competing seriously on Kiawah Island may be why he finds himself facing a chance to secure his first major title in the Southern Hills.