Chilean Niemann finishes sixth in stellar professional debut

Joaquín Niemann finished sixth at the Valero Texas Open. (Reuters pic)

SAN ANTONIO: Former world number one amateur Joaquín Niemann made a brilliant professional debut when he finished sixth at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday.

The 19-year-old from Chile became the first man since Anthony Kim in 2006 to post a top-10 in his pro debut on the PGA Tour, according to the tour.

Kim tied for second at the Valero Texas Open 12 years ago, going on to win three times on tour and playing on the victorious American Ryder Cup team in 2008.

Looking remarkably assured in his first professional appearance, Niemann used his textbook swing and confident putting stroke to card a five-under-par 67 at TPC San Antonio.

He closed with three straight birdies, holing an eight-foot putt at the par-five 18th to finish at 12-under 276, five strokes behind American winner Andrew Landry.

“It’s amazing. It’s really nice to be standing with the best players in the world and be on the leaderboard,” Niemann told CBS television.

He was particularly pleased with his putting.

“Before this week my game was really good. Just my putter wasn’t good enough. Starting this week, my putter was working really well,” Niemann said.

Niemann was the world’s top-ranked amateur when he turned pro after missing the cut at the Masters two weeks ago.

He played on a sponsor exemption in San Antonio, and has accepted invitations to several other tournaments.

Courtesy of his top-10 finish, Niemann also qualified for the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, in two weeks.