KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (Reuters) – Chilean Joaquin Niemann has an outside chance on Sunday of supplanting Rory McIlroy as the youngest winner of the PGA Championship, five strokes from the lead heading into the final round.
After a poor start to the third round, Niemann was very much an afterthought for most of Saturday as veteran Phil Mickelson seemed to have a stranglehold on the championship at Kiawah Island.
But around the same time as Mickelson faltered, Niemann surged, capping off a fine comeback with a 25-foot birdie at the last for a one-under-par 71.
He posted a two-under 214 total which when the dust had settled left him equal seventh behind leader Mickelson.
“Of course,” 22-year-old Niemann said when asked whether he would be eyeing victory on Sunday.
McIlroy was aged 23 years and three months when he won the 2012 PGA Championship here on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Niemann endured a dreadful hour or so on the front nine, frittering away three strokes in a four-hole stretch as he hit a series of poor shots due, he said, to mental mistakes.
“I just had some bad decisions, some irons that I didn’t commit (to) and that’s why I didn’t make a good swing and ended up making bogeys,” he said.
“I’m pretty proud and happy the way I handled my round and the way I played the back nine, and finishing under par is pretty good.”
World number 29 Niemann has won once on the PGA Tour since turning pro in 2018. He was previously the world’s top-ranked amateur.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Daniel Wallis)