SILVIS, ILLINOIS // The latest member of golf's most exclusive club surely rates as the most unlikely. Al Geiberger was the first on the US PGA Tour to a shoot a 59, back in 1977. Chip Beck did it in 1991, and David Duval matched them in 1999. And now comes Paul Goydos, a 46-year-old journeyman with only two PGA victories. He shot a 12-under 59 in the opening round Thursday at the John Deere Classic.
"Wow," Goydos said. "Fifty-nine is a pretty iconic number. I just keep going 'wow'." As well as he played - 12 birdies, no bogeys, and just 22 putts - he led by only one stroke. While Goydos was soaking in the adulation of a rare feat and giving interview after interview, the defending champion, Steve Stricker, was shooting a 60. That made for the two lowest scores in a single round at a PGA event. And Stricker just missed tying Goydos on the last hole.
"You're 12 back before you even step on the first tee. That's tough to swallow," said Stricker, who didn't start until Goydos finished. With the TPC Deere Run course softened by three days of intermittent rain, a lot of golfers were expected to go low. But a 59 and a 60 on the same day, two scores that have been recorded at the same time only once over an entire year? "The course is ripe for scoring," Stricker said.
The sensational round by Goydos was so shocking because he has played so poorly this year. He has missed almost as many cuts as he has made and has not had a top-40 finish since early May. "I definitely was scuttling on the bottom of the ocean the last three, four months," he said. Not anymore. His tee shots found the middle of the fairway. His approaches stuck on the green. And, most importantly, his putts found the middle of the cup over and over again.
Goydos, who has not won on the tour since 2007, got a bit of help in dominating the soggy course. The wet conditions allowed for preferred lies, permitting golfers to lift, clean and place their ball on the fairway. Duval's 59 came in a memorable final round that helped him win the 1999 Bob Hope Classic. Geiberger shot the first 59 in the second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club.
Beck shot his 59 in the third round of the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational at Sunrise Golf Course. * AP