Where does Furyk's 59 rank among the rest?

By Jason SobelSeptember 13, 2013, 11:52 pm

It was only minutes after Jim Furyk had drained a 3-foot, 3-inch birdie putt on the ninth hole of the BMW Championship’s second round on Friday when I took to Twitter in an attempt to provide perspective in regard to the most recent history-maker on the PGA Tour.

You can't really 'rank' the 59s. But let's do it anyway: 1. Duval; 2. Geiberger; 3. Appleby; 4. Furyk; 5. Beck; 6. Goydos.

Reaction – as it almost always is within social media – was mixed. Some people said I nailed it. Some thought I was way off. PGA Tour pro Arron Oberholser, whom I respect and whom had already tweeted that the first-ever 59 remains the best, shot back, “Are you kidding me Sobel?”

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Others didn’t so much contest my ranking as ask for an explanation. So here it is.

There’s no wrong answer here, but there are two different schools of thought. One looks more closely at the round itself – the difficulty of the conditions, the separation from the rest of the field, the par number on the scorecard. And then there’s mine, which takes into account the pressure of the moment – when trying to win the golf tournament in the final round, when needing a big shot on the final hole, when attempting to become the first to accomplish the feat.

That’s how I came up with my ranking. Let’s break down the Dirty Half-Dozen:

1. David Duval: PGA West (Palmer Course, par 72); Bob Hope Chrysler Classic final round; Jan. 24, 1999.
This 59 occurred on a birdie-binge course in the desert, but is etched with everything necessary to call it the best ever. It came on a Sunday afternoon, was a 13-under-par score and gave Duval the tournament victory. Toss in the fact that he was throwing darts all day and actually eagled the final hole to erase a seven-shot deficit and win by a single stroke. Doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.

2. Al Geiberger: Colonial Country Club (par 72); Memphis Classic second round; June 10, 1977.
If you include The Open Championship, they’d been playing eventual PGA Tour-sanctioned rounds for 117 years before Geiberger became golf’s version of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile. That in itself is enough to forever keep it amongst the best 59s, but throw in the fact that – unlike his brethren in the exclusive club – he was using persimmon woods and balata balls on a 7,300-yard course, and the achievement remains truly remarkable to this day.

3. Stuart Appleby: The Greenbrier (Old White Course, par 70); Greenbrier Classic final round; August 1, 2010.
Let’s face it: The Old White wasn’t exactly a fire-breathing dragon of a golf course in its first year on the PGA Tour schedule and at par 70, Appleby “only” had to post a score of 11-under. Even so, it came on a Sunday afternoon and led to a trophy and oversized check presentation afterward. In my book, that outweighs almost every other weekday round of the same score.

4. Jim Furyk: Conway Farms (par 71); BMW Championship second round; Sept. 13, 2013.
The numbers are impossible to argue. Furyk’s 59 on Friday the 13th was a scary six shots better than the next-best score of the day and more than 12 shots better than the field’s scoring average. And that’s against a field of 69 other elite players, with no also-rans anchoring down that number. In windy conditions and with some bouncy greens, the only 59 on the PGA Tour to feature a bogey was a thing of beauty.

5. Chip Beck: Sunrise GC (par 72); Las Vegas Invitational third round; Oct. 11, 1991.
It took 14 years for another player to match Geiberger’s feat, but Beck’s scorecard was immaculate, with 13 red circles and five pars. Perhaps just as interesting was this quote from the longtime pro after Duval matched him eight years later: “Actually, I wish he had broken the record and shot 58. I think it will happen soon, and I hope it does. That's the next level.” We’re still waiting.

6. Paul Goydos: TPC Deere Run (par 71); John Deere Classic first round; July 8, 2010.
Let’s be real here: There’s no such thing as “last place” on a ranking of PGA Tour 59s. It’s like being ranked last on a list of dates with Kate Upton. But Goydos clearly had the best sense of humor after his record-tying number. 'Most people try to shoot their age,” he deadpanned. “I shot my height.'

As if it isn’t difficult enough to rank these six – and again, there really is no wrong answer – my initial tweet was followed by this one from a legend who posted 59 in the second round of the 1974 Brazil Open:

Uh-oh. Valid request and a potentially fun project – and I try to never let down a legend. Looks like it’s back to the research archives for me ...

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.