Shooting 59 ain't what it used to be

By Jason SobelJuly 29, 2013, 3:49 pm

Fifty-nine used to be golf’s magic number. When Al Geiberger recently watched some long-lost video of his 59 at the 1977 Memphis Classic, he grew very emotional. Annika Sorenstam, the only woman to post 59 on the LPGA, has branded herself “Ms. 59.”

Maybe the number is still magic, but it’s becoming more the pull-a-nickel-from-behind-someone’s-ear magic than the locking-yourself-in-a-vault-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea magic.

The latest installment of “How Low Can They Go?” occurred at the Web.com Tour’s Boise Open this past week, as Russell Knox posted a 59 in the second round, the result of a two-eagle, eight-birdie performance that looked curiously simple on paper, his flawless scorecard interrupted by eight measly pars.

If the tale sounds familiar, that’s because Knox’s 59 came a dozen days after Will Wilcox shot the same score on the same tour. In the aftermath of the most recent 59, responses on Twitter ranged from the enthusiastic (“Wow! That’s awesome!”) to the skeptical (“Are they playing from the ladies’ tees?”) to one observer who made a brilliant analogy.

“It’s like the four-minute mile,” this tweeter suggested.

No further explanation needed.

Roger Bannister first broke the magic mark on May 6, 1954. His record lasted just 46 days. These days, four-minute miles are recorded by middle-schoolers hopping backward on one leg – or something like that. The impossible dream has become routine.

We haven’t reached such territory when it comes to shooting 59 … yet. In fact, despite the relative outbreak of sub-60 scores, it still reeks of impossible dream connotations.

Earlier this year, after leaving a putt for 59 hanging on the lip at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Phil Mickelson explained, “Well, 60 is awesome. But there's a big difference between 60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61, there really isn't. But there's a big barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60.”

All of which should lead to one question in light of not only more 59s, but more 60s, 61s and 62s and even a 56 (more on that one later) that is efficiently simple yet utterly complicated.

Why?

The answers are numerous and, frankly, each has some merit without any taking full credit.

Players are bigger, stronger and more athletic these days…

… except Wilcox and Knox weigh in at a listed 160 and 155 pounds, respectively.

Players have the benefit of more technological advances…

… which is true in comparison with Geiberger’s era, but certainly not on a week-to-week, month-to-month basis.

(When Stuart Appleby recorded the fifth 59 in PGA Tour history at The Greenbrier Classic three years ago – a mere four weeks after Paul Goydos recorded the fourth 59 at the John Deere Classic – he recalled seeing equipment from Sam Snead’s round of 59 on the same course more than a half-century earlier: “There's the ball and the club, and you're like, ‘How did he do that?’ I shouldn't say 59 is easy today, but easier than back then.”)

Players are competing on relatively easier courses …

… though the Boise Open was contested on 6,698-yard, par-71 Hillcrest Country Club, which played closer to 6,500 yards with the altitude, tournament courses in general feature tighter fairways and faster greens than those of previous generations.

Players now have advanced mental training and aren’t afraid to go low …

… and there’s actually something to this notion.

Listen to what Knox said after holing a 7-foot par putt to clinch the 59 and it sounds like something straight out of an upper-level sports psychology class.

'I told myself I had no choice but to make this putt,' he explained. 'Missing wasn't an option. I'd convinced myself that I'd already made it. It was right in the middle. Never in doubt.'

The truth is, it is some conglomeration of all of the above – bigger, stronger players; technological advancements; some easier course setups; and advanced mental training – which has led to the proliferation of super-low scores.

Oh, and about that 56: It was produced by mini-tour player Jesse Massie, who posted a 67 in a tournament round at Glenmary Golf Course in Louisville, Ky., last week, then later in the day played a non-competitive round on the same track and recorded one eagle and 14 birdies.

Sort of makes the 59 posted by 16-year-old Will Grimmer two weeks earlier on Pinehurst No. 1 pale in comparison.

We may never get to the point where middle-schoolers are hopping backward on one leg en route to posting sub-60 totals, but there’s no doubt that these scores are becoming more of a trend.

What can be done to stop them? More tournaments on par-72 courses? More heavy winds from Mother Nature? More – in the parlance of Ian Poulter – clown faces and windmills on the greens?

None of those are credible possibilities, so the best answer may be to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Magic shows are supposed to be fun, after all, even if it doesn’t feel like the magicians are locking themselves in a vault at the bottom of the sea anymore.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with LA Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.