Johnson Flirts with Magical 59

By Associated PressSeptember 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Zach Johnson kept his cool and stared down Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Five months later and 120 miles west of Augusta National, he felt an entirely different kind of pressure, and it didn't go quite as well.
'I could barely stand up,' Johnson said with a laugh.
In the latest run at 59 on a soft East Lake course, Johnson needed a birdie on the par-3 18th hole to become only the fourth player in PGA Tour history to hit golf's magic number. He pushed it badly into the bunker, blasted out to 2 feet and gladly settled for a 60 to break the course record Saturday at the Tour Championship.
And it's a record that probably will stand a long time -- unless someone breaks it in the final round.
The greens on the fabled course where Bobby Jones grew up nearly died two weeks ago, and tour officials did a remarkable job getting them ready for the Tour Championship.
But it led to a a perfect storm for scoring -- super soft greens that allow players to fire at the flags, slow surfaces that allow them to putt aggressively, and barren greens that have forced officials to keep pins toward the middle of the green.
Johnson still had to hit the shots and make the putts, and did he ever.
Playing alongside Ernie Els, the Masters champ went out in 31, then made his big run. He hit 4-iron to 5 feet on the 11th, 6-iron to 18 feet on the 13th, 8-iron to 10 feet on the next hole, then hit 2-iron to about 15 feet on the par-5 15th and made that for eagle.
Suddenly, he was 9 under for his round and needed only two birdies on the last three holes for 59.
'That's about when it hit me,' Johnson said.
The thought of a 59 felt like a sledge hammer when he hit 4-iron out of fairway bunker to 5 feet on the 17th for another birdie, leaving him one away from the magic number as he walked to the 223-yard closing hole.
'My shoulders felt heavy and my legs felt like they weighed nothing,' Johnson said. 'My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding. I was breathing all right, though. I guess the yoga that I've been doing helped out a little bit.'
He fanned the 2-iron, and knew when his bunker shot hit the green that it was too high of the hole to go in.
'We usually play to win golf tournaments,' Johnson said. 'And today, I was kind of playing to shoot 59.'
It was the third straight day someone had reason to think about a 59. Tim Clark was 8 under through 15 holes on Thursday and settled for three pars and a 62. Tiger Woods shot 28 on the front nine Friday and needed only four birdies on the back nine, but was tripped up by two bogeys. Even after Johnson finished, Mark Calcavecchia was 8 under for his round through 15 holes until a bogey on the 16th.
Johnson was not about to make apologies for his brush with 59.
'Fifty-nine is 59 is 59,' he said. 'Course can play easy, wind can be benign, the greens can be perfect speed, but you've got to get it done. That's what it boils down to.'
Related Links:
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Leaderboard - TOUR Championship
  • Full Coverage - TOUR Championship
  • Getty Images

    Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:31 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.

    Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.

    Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.

    “It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”

    The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.

    Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

    Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

    “I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.

    A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.

    “I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.

    He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.

    “It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:18 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.

    Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.

    “It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”

    Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

    Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

    The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.

    He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.

    Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

    “I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”

    Getty Images

    Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

    Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

    Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

    With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

    All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

    “This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”

    Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

    Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

    “It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

    Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

    “Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

    Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

    “My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

    Getty Images

    Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

    We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

    Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

    If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

    It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

    Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.