Thursday, July 08, 2010

Shooting 59: Cracking Golf's Final Frontier

When I heard Paul Goydos shot 59 in today's first round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, it didn't matter that Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval, not to mention Annika Sorenstam on the LPGA Tour, had done it before him.

It's still golf's final frontier and when someone goes there, it's still a surprise.

Think about it. Fifty-nine.

And sure, TPC Deere Run isn't Oakmont but it's still a course strong enough to host a PGA Tour event and it's not like guys have routinely flirted with 50-something there. It's 12-under on the par-71 course. It's not hard to do the math. There weren't many pars.

So much of golf has been demystified. There was a time when 300-yard drives dropped jaws. Not any more. A 490-yard par-4 isn't all that unusual. Nor do we blink when we hear about pros hitting a wedge to a green from 150 yards away.

But shooting 59 gets your attention. That's one reason it's been done so rarely. No matter how much mental discipline a player has and no matter how into the zone he may be on a particular day, flirting with breaking 60 is more nerve-wracking than your first date.

You can't help (I'm guessing here because I feel this way about breaking 80) but think about what you're trying to do. Everybody's thinking about, just like they do with no-hitters and perfect games in baseball.

I've been at several tournaments where a player gets it going and everyone starts crunching the numbers -- if he can birdie four of the last five he can shoot 59 -- and it never happens. Or almost never.

It happened for Paul Goydos, who was probably as dumbfounded by what he did as anyone.

He admitted he didn't see it coming, given his lackluster play the past few weeks. But all of a sudden, it was there. Every time Goydos looked up, he saw putts falling in the middle of the hole.

On the 16th tee, Goydos knew he needed three birdies to shoot 59. Then he made them, saving perhaps his best drive and best approach shot for last, setting up the seven-foot birdie putt that put him in golf's most select group.

In a teleconference after his round, Goydos said shooting 59 is "a bucket list kind of thing" for a tour pro.

"I've got a bunch of nines in the 20s, which to me is pretty cool," Goydos said. "But I've had a couple of chances at home to shoot 59 with friends and didn't. I think I've made 10 holes-in-one and I can tell you exactly where they were. And, I've made three double eagles and I can tell you exactly where they were.

"This is just the cream at the top. When I look at myself, what I've done with my career, the two wins will be on top but the 59 will be hanging in there at third."

Good for him. Good for golf.


Anonymous said...

Most impressive 59 in the last 10 years was the final round of the 2005 Palmetto Amateur. August in Aiken on a course that is much more difficult than TPC at Deere Run, and a college kid shoots 59 in the final round to come back and win.