By Dan Reardon
With so many low scores posted, something rare is happening in golf this summer. At Troon for the Open Championship, Phil Mickelson barely missed a putt at the 18th of the opening round that would have set the all-time major record with a 62. Four days later he watched Sweden’s Henrik Stenson match his 63 in a round that included two three-putt bogeys and 10 birdies.
Less than two weeks later on the Web.com Tour, German Stephan Jaeger opened the Ellie Mae Classic in California with a 58, birdieing two out of every three holes played. Jaeger doubled down on his scoring with rounds of 65, 64, 63 to erase every scoring mark in the history of the developmental tour. For the week Jaeger carded 29 birdies and an eagle to finish -30.
There is even a rumor of an unofficial 56 turned in earlier in the summer during a pro-am round on the same Tour.
So when Jim Furyk followed up his third round 2-over 72 at Hartford with a 12-under 58 to set the all-time PGA Tour record, the suggestion that his accomplishment could last a generation may be hyperbole. It might not last the summer.
The earlier rounds went unexplained as bolts from the blue. But Furyk offered up that his father, who has monitored his game through his Hall of Fame career, provided a couple of helpful tips to produce the 14-stroke turnaround. When pressed for specifics on the fatherly advice, he said he had sent video of a couple of nine iron swings to his dad for analysis, but what he got back seems less than change-making.
“He said a couple nice things to me, you look like you’re really in good balance. It looks like everything is working together a lot better than what you were explaining before. He said, I think it looks great.”
To keep things in perspective on Furyk’s record-setting performance, it should be noted that Daniel Berger had a mundane 63 the day before at River Highlands and Justin Thomas had a 62 behind the 58 the same day.
Statistically a few things stand out from the round. Furyk only played the last six holes at 1-under, so it could have been even lower. On the day, he hit all 18 greens in regulations and missed only one fairway. His putting total was an exceptional, but not rare, total of 24. But starting at the second hole, he played the next 11 holes at 11-under par and needed only 11 putts.
Without slighting Furyk in the least, technology continues to assist in rewriting the records. Furyk, at age 46, is distance-challenged, and his viability on Tour is an anomaly in today’s game. He ranks 182nd in driving distance on Tour at 279 yards (he averaged 291 on Sunday). The course was set up at 6841 yards, the shortest layout in any of the seven sub-60 rounds in Tour history, and over 300 yards shorter than Conway Farms where Furyk shot 59 in 2013 at the FedEx BMW Championship.
When you go through Furyk’s hole-by-hole for the day, it is surprising to count the number of short irons ‘short Jim’ had into the greens. On all but four of the 18 holes, Furyk used seven iron or higher with his approaches, and that includes the hole-out eagle at the third with a wedge.
Surprisingly, he is only the second player over 46 to post a sub-60 round, edging Paul Goydos by just two months as the oldest. Equally unusual, his finish tilted the scales against winners with rounds under 60. Furyk’s T5 is the worst finish in the exclusive club, joining himself, Goydos and Chip Beck who had to count their rounds as consolation prizes. Al Geiberger, the original Mr. 59, David Duval and Stuart Appleby have tournament trophies to go along with their souvenir score cards.
Furyk has always been a glass-is-half-full guy when it comes to his career accomplishments. And while he admits being the only one ever to live in his new neighborhood is memorable, he doesn’t hesitate to detail what matters most to him in golf. “Were always going to be judged by major championship wins and tournament wins, and I still feel that’s the most important thing out here … you live to compete and try to win golf tournaments. I’m really proud about being on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, especially those teams that have done well and succeeded and played well, but this 59 and the 58 are — no one else — it’s going to be a while, but no one else can say they’ve done that out here on the PGA Tour.”
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.