On Sunday of the Travelers Championship, Jim Furyk set the scoring bar on the PGA Tour by going where no man had ever been before – a 58.
It’s not that unique a number in golf because it has been achieved before. Ryo Ishikawa also shot a 12-under par 58, also on a Sunday, to win The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour in 2010, while Jason Bohn and Stephan Jaegar matched his effort on the Canadian and the Web.com Tour respectively.
And even though the American media failed to recognise Ishikawa’s effort, it must be pointed out that the course set-up in Japan Golf Tour, on an average, is much tougher than on the PGA Tour. The Canadian and the Web.com Tour are developmental tours.
But let’s face it, after 59 was shot six times on the PGA Tour, 58 was the Holy Grail. And for Furyk to get to that mark is an astonishing fact, given he is one of the six men who have shot a 59 before.
There is a debate going on about whether the 59s of David Duval, Chip Beck and Al Gieberger were greater than Furyk’s 58. The first three gentlemen in the 59 Club were playing on par-72 courses, thus needing to shoot 13-under par to reach their 59s, while Furyk was 12-under par for 58 on the par-70 TPC River Highlands course.
I personally think the par for the course does not matter. My argument is this – if it is a par-72 course, it will have four par-5 holes, which are much easier for tour pros to make birdies on, compared to par- 4s and par-3s.
"I think someday, someone is going to shoot 58 on the PGA TOUR ..." --Jim Furyk after shooting 59 in 2013 https://t.co/BSsvZIZlhQ— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 10, 2016
Most par-70 courses have only two par-5s, as was the case with TPC River Highlands. Astonishingly, Furyk did not make a birdie on either of the two par-5s en route to 58.
And then there are some who contend that Furyk’s 59 was a bigger achievement than his 58, because he beat the field by more shots during his 2013 round at the 2013 BMW Championship.
At Conway Farms, he beat the average score of the field by 11.61 shots, while last Sunday, he was ‘only’ 10.8 shots better than the field. The best sub-60 score by this yardstick would be Duval’s, who was 12.6 shots better than the field.
This is a much better argument, but it does not take into consideration many things, like the weather. The 59 at the BMW Championship was played earlier in the round and the wind may have picked up later.
A few critics have pointed out that Furyk’s effort came when he had no pressure. He was never in contention and things would have been a lot different if he was playing in the last couple of groups.
Honestly, I see no reason why there should be any comparison. Breaking the 60 barrier is as tough as winning majors, if not tougher. After all, we have far more major winners than players who have scored in the 50s.
Many top stars, including Tiger Woods haven’t even come close to sniffing a 59 in tournament conditions.
Another issue is the spate of low scores we are experiencing lately. Furyk’s 58 came a week after Jaeger posted a similar number at the Ellie Mae Classic on the Web.com Tour.
In the majors, a round of 63 was unthinkable until Johnny Miller achieved it in the 1973 US Open at Oakmont. From then to the 2016 Masters, 25 players managed to match that score in 151 major championships. Remarkably, four 63s have come in the last three majors – Hiroshi Iwata at the US Open, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at the Open Championship and Robert Streb in the PGA Championship.
Furyk also neither has the classic swing nor the length off the tee many fans believe is key to low scoring, and yet, he’s breached 60 twice.
Furyk’s homemade swing is one of the most unorthodox on the PGA Tour, once described by David Feherty as an “octopus falling out of a tree”. And he is 182nd in the list of driving distance, a whopping 45 yards behind leader Dustin Johnson’s average drives of 313.9 yards.
The end of Nike Golf
The equipment industry received a massive jolt last week when Nike Golf announced they are shutting down their equipment business. It was a surprise, especially considering they have players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods as part of their superstar roster, and even as early as this year, they signed up several young and upcoming stars, including Brooks Koepka.
Many theories exist as to why their business was hurting. Some believe Nike was responsible for ruining the endorsement market by paying outrageous amounts to top stars. But while Woods was still able to make those numbers look good by return on investment, once he started to struggle, so did Nike Golf.
The other reason is while Nike did amazing things in America, they hardly did anything of note in Asia, which is now the place to be and the only market that is growing at a pace that matters. They did sign up China’s Li Haotong, but ignored Indians, Thais and other Asians.
And finally, they also never came out with any club, especially fast-selling items like drivers and putters, that became iconic.
The success of established players in the business like Callaway, PING and TaylorMade is partly because of the fact how good and successful their new driver launches have been.
Quote of the Week
“The 59 was a great accomplishment. I’m a little flabbergasted that I had the opportunity to break 60 again and was able to do so and to do it with a 58. It’s amazing. I guess I look at it is it’s one day versus a career, but it’s also one day that no one else on the PGA Tour has ever done”. – Jim Furyk, when asked to compare his US Open and 17 PGA Tour wins against the 59 and the 58 he shot.