The most intimate secrets of the controversial departure of Joaquín Niemann to LIV

The signing of Joaquín Niemann by LIV Golf left no one indifferent. Since the Saudi super league announced the Chilean among the players who crossed the pond after the PGA playoffs, thousands of fans have positioned themselves on what is to be a significant change for national golf. Many applauded the decision experience a circuit where the player’s freedom and profits are greater. But another group also strongly criticized the determination to set aside the tour with the longest history in this sport on the planet.

In the midst of that period of boiling and opposing sensations, Jorge Niemann, father of the best golfer in the history of Chile, talks with El Deportivo to tell the true motivations that led his son to leave the PGA. He says that he does not seek to recriminate those who criticize him, but to show the whole picture. One that goes beyond mere millions is that the LIV is an ambitious plan, which seeks (and almost seems destined to) take over the world of golf. One that started this 2022 with eight tournaments and that in 2023 it will expand to ten dates spread throughout the planet, with formats and codes different from those of traditional golf. Gone are the exhausting days, the silent fields. The LIV wants to hit the table.

The first thing Jorge Niemann starts by commenting on are the reasons why his son left the PGA after four seasons playing the best tournaments in the United States. Three main ideas make up the explanation of it: monetary, sports and personal factors.

Obviously, The most mediatic topic of this change has been money. Many have pointed out that the decision revolves exclusively around that, but the older Niemann is more careful with that. He says that was an important factor, but not the only one. He clarifies that the offer was a great opportunity, since they offered him a five-year contract and that it was much more important than the one he had now. He received US$100 million with taxes, which will be paid in two installments.

“I am not the one to correct or convince those who think that he left for money or that he is a mercenary. Everyone thinks what they want, but as a friend says, in the end they will end up changing the channel anyway. They will go to see the LIV… It is true that before he used to win good money and that the tournaments had more history, but this is just beginning and it is on the rise”, comments Jorge Niemann in a conversation with El Deportivo.

The statement is accompanied by another relevant topic: the assessment of the level of competition at which it reaches. Many have taken a dim view of Joaco leaving a tour where the best on the planet have always been present. According to his father, it is not so: “In the LIV there is Cameron Smith, there are many players who were number one in the world and who know what it is to win in the PGA. On the other hand, when, for example, Joaco was going to play John Deere (a tournament on the North American tour) the best were not there. Of the 54 tournaments in 20 at the most were the best in the world. So it’s not like before I always played against the best and now I don’t”, he says.

It also refers to the third reason, and perhaps the most significant: the flexibility of the calendar. The program, which ends in October and starts in February, gives him three months off, plus the option to play tournaments on other tours and the majors. In fact, they are evaluating playing a couple of dates on the European Tour and the Asian Tour at the end of the year, although nothing is confirmed yet. “Being on the PGA looks easy from the outside, but it’s super tough timing-wise, so that’s a plus too. Having more free time and being able to enjoy what you have produced,” he adds.

When news of Joaco’s signing for LIV became known, many wondered at what point the Chilean had changed his mind, because in June he had hinted that he would not go to the Saudi super league. Jorge Niemann answers that question without problems: “In February it was the first conversation with the agent, on dates close to the Genesis Championship. It was a first approach, to talk about the project and a little about the money, but at that time there was no interest on our part because the circuit was just beginning, so the insecurities were greater. The decision was made after St. Jude, the first tournament of the playoffs. We were practically ready there. It only remained to fine-tune a couple of details”, he comments.

Joaquín Niemann, during his presentation at LIV Golf.

That explanation suggests that The Chilean went with his future already clear to the secret meeting that Tiger Woods had with the best players in the world. An appointment where the legend tried to find support from the stars of the circuit. “His idea did not change after that, because what they offered him was not even close to what the PGA offered him,” says his father, who also clarifies that the initial intention was to play the Presidents Cup before changing sides, but that the dates did not fit, since if he was not present at the Boston tournament he would not be able to compete in the final date of the LIV, which awards a prize of US$ 18 million for the winner, the same amount that the winner of the FedEx Cup receives, although here you only have to play five events.

Not a minor detail is that three weeks before leaving the tour, the winner of the Genesis Championship met with Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA. “He told him that he had a great future with them…but in four years he had never gotten together with Joaco. Anyway, when she went to say goodbye, she wished him well. He was well liked on the tour, ”adds the father of the Chilean, who is emphatic that it was a decision that they thought a lot about and with all the information on the table.

With the man from Talagan already committed and playing for the new tour, the most important thing is to talk about what his steps and objectives will be within the LIV. Arguing about whether it was the right thing to do or whether it is a jump or a setback is no longer relevant. The decision is made and now the important thing is the future. A future that will have Niemann as one of the top stars on the circuit who came to revolutionize golf. “He’s going to be captain of one of the teams and that means he’s going to have a percentage of ownership over that team. The LIV wants them to be like NBA franchises, so in the long run they will cost money and he will be part owner of one, “says Jorge. That phrase gives signs of an ambitious plan and, incidentally, reaffirms that the squads of this 2022 are an experiment, since the players will be rotated in these tournaments. Only next year will 16 permanent teams be formed.

In any case, this year is already being a great experience for Niemann. As soon as he arrived in Boston, where he plays his first event, he felt the freshness and the good atmosphere of the circuit. “He told me that there was a very good vibe among the players, which could not happen at the PGA because they were all spread out at different times and with a lot of difference. Here, on the other hand, there is a great atmosphere, since everyone goes out to play at the same time. For the spectators it is also a great event, because after the games there are live concerts”, he comments. For example, this weekend in Boston bands St. Lucia, Dalton & The Sheriffs and DJ Diplo will play.

“They are targeting the new generations, who don’t bother spending 12 hours watching golf in the same day. I think it will be a refreshing tour and sooner or later they will join the PGA, because the people who organize the majors are not going to afford to lose the best either. So I think three years from now it’s not going to be as much of a rivalry. Maybe that later instead of a Ryder or a Presidents we will see a tournament between the PGA and the LIV”, he sentences.

What Niemann Sr. raises is not unreasonable. In a world where business rules, the PGA will also end up putting aside its personal battle with the LIV and if that happens it would not be unreasonable to see him taking advantage of all that. It is a bet, one of those that Joaco took with his change of side. One who at 23 is not fatal. Five seasons in the Saudi league can give him a lot, in every way. And after that? A whole race ahead. “We are calm with the decision and that Joaco has a good time”, he closes, convinced.

This Sunday, Joaco will fight for the title at the LIV Golf Invitational Boston. This Saturday he finished second, with five shots under par. He reaches the last day with an accumulated card of -11.

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