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.


Humana Challenge : Articles, videos and photos


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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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”