Palmer learns why it's so hard to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 24, 2015, 1:18 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – It’s been 16 years since David Duval punched the desert air after his closing 59 at the old Bob Hope Classic.

Aren’t you at least a little surprised that it hasn’t happened here since?

The weather is ideal – warm temperatures, dry air, nonexistent winds.

The courses are short by today’s standards (about 7,000 yards) and ranked among the easiest on the PGA Tour.

And the greens – always the go-low X-factor – are typically in immaculate shape.

So what gives? Why hasn’t there been another 59 here?

“We’re talking about golf,” Matt Kuchar said. “We’re not talking about corn hole. It’s a difficult game. It’s a very challenging game. Fifty-nine ... that’s a lot under par.”

That’s true, of course, but every year a player at the Humana Challenge makes a run at golf’s magic number.

In 2009, Pat Perez and Steve Stricker threw up 61s.

In 2012, Robert Garrigus fired a 61.

In 2013, there was a trio of 62s – in the final round.

Last year, Zach Johnson shot 62 without breaking a sweat.


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Sure enough, Ryan Palmer on Friday became the latest to scare a sub-60 score, playing an eight-hole stretch in 10 under par to sound the alarms.

“You have that feeling inside you that there’s no way I can miss this,” Palmer said. “You get in that zone. You could put that pin anywhere they wanted and I could have found it. ... I hate to use the word ‘easy,’ but it feels easy. The hole is big.”

So forget a 59 watch.

“Shoot,” caddie James Edmondson said, “I started thinking we could shoot 57 or 58 today.”

Except, inevitably, Palmer bogeyed his next two holes. And even though he birdied two of his next four to give himself another chance, he squandered a pair of opportunities on the closing stretch.

In the end, he “settled” for an 11-under 61, which matched his personal best and propelled him back into this tournament. At 12-under 132, he is in a tie for seventh, three shots back.

There’s a reason why breaking the sub-60 barrier is the rarest feat in golf, and it’s why those predicting that someone soon will post a 58 in a PGA Tour event might want to reconsider.

Yes, equipment is changing the game and today’s players are bigger, longer and stronger, but there still has been only one 59 in the past four years – and it was shot by Jim Furyk, who is neither big, long or strong. There has been only one sub-60 score on the Champions Tour, accomplished last year. There’s never been an official 59 on the Euro Tour.

That Palmer wasn’t able to close out his magical round Friday only underscores the fact that the difference between 60 and 59 is about six inches – or the distance between a person’s ears.

“It’s hard,” he said afterward, “because you start thinking about it. That’s probably why you see guys make a bogey coming in.”

During his brief skid in the second round, he fanned a 140-yard approach into a bunker and hit a poor sand shot. The next hole, he shied away from a back-left pin – typically a green-light flag for his draw – because he didn’t want to go into the water left. It led to a bogey.

Under normal circumstances he’d like to think he wouldn’t make those careless mistakes, but going low creates its own set of challenges and mental gymnastics.

You think about not thinking about it.

You try not to try.

On the ninth tee, his 18th of the day, Edmondson turned to his man and said: “If you shoot 60 with two bogeys, it’s just as impressive as a 59.”

Except Palmer pushed a 4-footer on the last.

“It’s pretty special,” Palmer said of his 61, but in this tournament it’s almost become routine.

All of the contenders went on a hot run Friday – how long it lasts is the difference between first place and 15th.

Kuchar, the leader, played his first 13 holes in 8 under.

Alex Cejka (-12) played a 10-hole stretch in 9 under.

Bill Haas (-14) ran off seven birdies in a row on his last nine.

“Usually if it’s going to happen,” Haas said of the birdie runs, “it’s going to happen here in the desert. That’s why we all like coming here.”

There’s a lot to like – a four-round confidence boost, ideal scoring conditions, easier setups – but to match Duval, to join a most exclusive club, it requires five-hour perfection in an imperfect game.

“You want to get to that magic number,” Palmer said with a tinge of disappointment, “because you never know if you’re going to get that chance again.”

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday going into the final round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.

Ko shot a 66 at Wilshire Country Club in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member.

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole.


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Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

Jutanugarn read the break perfectly to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 uner.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


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


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.