Chile's Niemann grabs share of clubhouse lead in Mexico

FILE PHOTO: Oct 18, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Joaquin Niemann hits a shot on the second hole during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Chile's Joaquin Niemann, who had to skip last month's Masters after testing positive for COVID-19, grabbed a share of the early first-round clubhouse lead at the Mayakoba Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Thursday.

The former top-ranked amateur mixed an eagle, four birdies and a bogey for a five-under-par 66 in windy conditions at El Camaleon Golf Club where he and Argentine Emiliano Grillo were a shot clear of Norway's Viktor Hovland.

"Took me a couple holes to like figure it out a little bit with the wind and stuff, but I'm really happy the way I played and the way I finished," Niemann said.

World number three Justin Thomas, the highest-ranked player in the field, carded a one-over-par 72 that included a double-bogey at the par-four 14th.

Rickie Fowler, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour, did well to salvage a one-under-par 70 despite a roller-coaster round that included a quadruple-bogey and a double-bogey.

Fowler, who started on the back nine, began his day with two consecutive birdies before running into trouble at the par-four 12th where he carded an eight.

A double-bogey at the par-four third put Fowler at three over but he battled back with four birdies over his final six holes to get back to under par.

"This has to be the lowest I've shot with a quad," said Fowler.

Defending champion Brendon Todd went out late and was one under after four holes while playing companion and world number 12 Brooks Koepka, looking to snap a 16-month victory drought on the PGA Tour, was two over.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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