IT MUST BE SOMETHING they’re spraying on golf courses, because 59s, a once-rare score (for 18 holes), are spreading like kudzu. And their even-rarer cousins—the 58 and 57—are also popping up from Asia to Alabama. What gives?
I thought I would take inventory of the 59s before they start appearing every week at some pro or amateur event. It’s getting ridiculous, and I’m not sure that anyone can care much longer. There were only three in 33 years on the PGA Tour. Now there have been two in a month. (Sorry, 59, but you’re just not that special anymore. You were much more exciting when you were so elusive. I’m afraid it’s nearly over.)
(Photo: David Duval and Davis Love / Camflan, Flickr)
The Original 59
Al Geiberger, Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, 1977
Al Geiberger was the first, and for years was called Mr. 59. Al shot it with ancient wooden and steel clubs in 102-degree heat. He went on to win the tournament, too. After losing the lead to Gary Player, he shot 32 on his final nine to win by three. Al’s 59 rates high in my book.
The “Easy” 59
Chip Beck, Las Vegas Invitational, 1991
Some have said Chip Beck’s 59 was tainted because it was on a new course in perfect condition and therefore “easy.” (Easy or not—and I’d say not—Beck got a million-dollar bonus.) What I remember is that Chip finished off his 59 on the 9th hole because he started on 10. That’s not his fault, but it doesn’t win “cool” points with me. Another thing I remember from seeing a clip is that there was no one there. That’s sort of like making a hole-in-one when you’re playing by yourself.
The Fist-Pump 59
David Duval, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, 1999
I like Geiberger’s because his was the first, but David Duval’s 59 is the Rembrandt among the bunch as far as I’m concerned. Duval came from seven back to win the tournament. And he eagled the final hole. Eagle. Can you imagine telling people that for the rest of your life? “Yeah, I needed to eagle the last for 59. Got it.” Another thing: Who knew Duval had a fist pump in him? The guy looked like he went to fist-pump school. Apparently he was saving it for something really special. Mr. Shades was jacked up when that putt dropped. I also remember David bringing out the fist pump at the Ryder Cup. And I believe he once fist-pumped at a Waffle House after polishing off a double order of hash browns, but I’m less certain about that.
The Unlucky 59
Paul Goydos, John Deere Classic, 2010
Paul Goydos shot the first 59 in 11 years, a sparkling 13-under effort, including birdies on the last three holes. And then a month later Stuart Appleby rolls in his 59 on top of Goydos’. That’s why I call it the unlucky 59. It’s like rolling out your vintage 1953 Corvette at auction and 10 minutes later there’s another one.
The James Bond 59
Stuart Appleby, Greenbrier Classic, 2010
I saw the last several holes of Stuart Appleby’s 59 at the Greenbrier and I can tell you this: he seemed totally unimpressed. Appleby was James Bond. Cool and collected in his purple Cutter & Buck polo, Stuart flagged his approach shots and rolled in birdie putts like it was 2008 and he still had his tour card. He cut out Jeff Overton’s heart, won the tournament and barely cracked a smile. When Appleby strolled off the 18th green, it was like he was saying, “Applaud if you must. I’m not sure which was harder, shooting a 59 or lacing up my golf shoes.” The name’s Bond, James Bond. Agent 59.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: four of the five 59s have been shot at “Classics.” The next “Classic” on the PGA Tour schedule is in October, the Viking Classic in Mississippi. Just remember you heard it here.
−The Armchair Golfer