Justin Thomas closes with eagle for seventh 59 in PGA Tour history

Justin Thomas closes with eagle for seventh 59 in PGA Tour history

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas closes with eagle for seventh 59 in PGA Tour history

Add Justin Thomas to an exclusive list.

Thomas fired an 11-under 59 in Thursday’s first round at the Sony Open, becoming just the seventh player in PGA Tour history to post that 59 figure. It was also just the eighth sub-60 round in a Tour event, as Jim Furyk set the low single-round scoring record last August at the Travelers Championship with a final-round 58. (He was 12 under for the round.)

A low score from the 23-year-old on the opening day wasn’t too much of a surprise, as Thomas shot 22 under last week at the SBS Tournament of Champions for a monumental third PGA Tour win that marked his continuing rise.

But a 59? It doesn’t matter how well one is playing, that is not something anyone can anticipate.

Thomas did it by steady onslaught from the opening tee, or rather the opening pitch. He began his round at Waialae Country Club’s 351-yard par-4 10th, where he launched his drive 315 yards to the left edge of the fairway right in front of the green. From 34 yards away, he then pitched in for eagle.

He promptly bogeyed the next hole to dampen that sensational start, but he would post five birdies in six holes from Nos. 13-18 to go out in 6-under 29.

In fact, he admitted after the round that he started thinking about a 59 around that point.

“(The thought of a 59) honestly entered my brain in 18 fairway,” Thomas said. “You think I’m going to make birdie here and turn in 6 (under). As well as I was driving it, I can go shoot 6 or 7 (under) on this (final) side.”

He looked like a prophet at first, as he followed by starting his back nine (the frontside) birdie-birdie and added another at the fourth from 5 and a half feet to reach 9 under through 13 holes.

His playing partners, longtime friends Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger, were just trying to stay out of his way at that point.

“It’s like sitting on the bench on the same team when someone’s throwing a perfect game,” Spieth said. “You want to stay in the same rhythm you’ve been staying in the whole day. Certainly never bring it (the possibility of 59) up.”

At that point, Thomas just needed to play the final five holes on the par 70 in 2 under for a 59. But he’d miss a 10-footer for birdie at the fifth, a 15-footer from the fringe at the next and agonizingly miss a 30-footer for birdie at No. 7 by an inch.

He then had to hole a 10-footer for par at the eighth to keep his hopes of 59 alive. He buried it.

That was only the start of the clutch play. Thomas needed an eagle on the par-5 ninth for 59.

He dumped his tee shot in a bunker, and thought his chances were doomed. But he got a stroke of luck.

“I was so bummed when that tee shot went in the bunker, I thought it was going to be dead,” Thomas said. “(But) I got up there and had a perfect lie, and I was like ‘What am I going to do? Lay up?’ ”

“(So) I just hit a 5-iron as high as I could and hoped it got there, and it did.”

In fact, he hit a “perfect” second shot from 206 yards onto the green, leaving himself a 15-footer for that eagle.

From there, his mindset turned aggressive.

“That’s the first time I’ve had a putt for 59, and who knows if it’s going to happen again,” Thomas said. “May as well knock it in.”

He did.

Spieth and Berger both shot 65 to make it a cumulative 21 under effort for the group.

Apparently they shared in Thomas’ 59 accomplishment more than Thomas himself.

“Honestly Jordan and Boogs (Berger) were more excited than I was,” Thomas said.

Thomas is the second player, after Paul Goydos at the 2010 John Deere Classic, to shoot 59 in the first round of a PGA Tour tournament. He and Stuart Appelby, in the final round of the 2010 Greenbrier Classic, are the two on the PGA Tour to do it on a par 70. Thomas is also only the second on the PGA Tour to shoot 59 by closing with eagle, with David Duval being the other at the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He’s also only the second player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour with a bogey (alongside Furyk, who did it in the second round of the 2013 BMW Championship).

Thomas also set the course record at Waialae (duh!), as he broke Davis Love III’s previous record 60 (set in the second round of this event in 1994).

Finally, at age 23, Thomas is the youngest player ever to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour.

Furyk remains the only player with two sub-60 scores on the PGA Tour, with his 58 and 59.

On the day, Thomas’ stats showed a clear story. His putter was key, as he was +3.999 in strokes gained: putting. His five birdies on his opening nine came (in order) on putts of 11, 13, 8, 5 and 3 feet. He rolled in his longest putt of the day at No. 1 when he knocked in a 17-footer for birdie followed by a 3-footer for another at the next.

Thomas only hit 8 of 14 fairways but was still able to find 14 of 18 greens.

Thomas holds a three-shot 18-hole lead after his opening 59. How does he describe his game after his last five rounds have totaled 33 under?

“I would say it’s pretty good right now,” Thomas said.

Yeah, maybe a little more than pretty good. The only thing Thomas got wrong all day.

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