Once the only Mr. 59, Al Geiberger now seeing 59s on PGA Tour on a yearly basis

Larry Stoddard/Associated Press

Once the only Mr. 59, Al Geiberger now seeing 59s on PGA Tour on a yearly basis

PGA Tour

Once the only Mr. 59, Al Geiberger now seeing 59s on PGA Tour on a yearly basis

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Kevin Chappell shot a sub-60 round at the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier last week, but don’t ask Al Geiberger how many sub-60 rounds have been shot on the PGA Tour now.

“I don’t know. I’ve lost track,” Geiberger laughed.

The first man to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour in 1977, Geiberger remained the only man to shoot under 60 in an official round for 14 years. Then came Chip Beck’s 59 in 1991, then David Duval shooting 59 at PGA West in La Quinta in 1999 at what is now the American Express tournament.

The 59s are coming fast and furious

Now the sub-60 rounds are coming with such regularity that even Geiberger, known as Mr. 59, has trouble keeping up. Chappell’s 11-under 59 at Old White TPC course in West Virginia is the 11th sub-60 round in tour history and the fifth sub-60 round since the start of the 2016 season.

That stretch includes a remarkable 58 by Jim Furyk in 2016. Geiberger, the long-time desert resident who happened to be watching the golf tournament last Friday as Chappell was shooting his round, was a little amazed that Chappell didn’t go even lower.

“He was quite a bit under par with like four holes to play,” Geiberger said. “He birdied one of the last four holes, I’m not sure which one, but he could have gone to 58 or 57 or 56.”


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Those kinds of numbers don’t seem to rattle Geiberger or the PGA Tour anymore. It seems a weekly occurrence on the tour to have a little “59 Watch” graphic on the television screen or for Twitter to explore with #59Watch alerts.

“When (Chappell) shot 59, I think there were two 62s and maybe a 61 that same day,” Geiberger said. “They just go low every week.”

Golf courses, clubs are much improved

Why the seemingly exponential increase in sub-60 rounds in the last few years? Geiberger says it has more to do with the golf courses than the current equipment.

“The courses, the agronomy, the way they get the golf courses these days is great,” the 82-year-old Geiberger said. “The courses are beautiful. When you get that, you get great greens and you make a lot of putts. That has as much to do with it as the guys hitting the ball longer today or anything like that.”

Geiberger remembers greens in his era of the 1960s and 1970s as being far grainier and longer and bumpier than the modern PGA Tour greens because of better turf practices and better mowing equipment.

Geiberger’s 59 was not only the first but it is widely considered the best of the 59s.

The round was shot in the summer of 1977 in the second round of the Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club in Memphis. Regarded as a tough course, Colonial played to a par-72 and more than 7,200 yards that day, with Geiberger recording 11 birdies and one eagle for the 59 while using just one ball.

Geiberger’s 59 is one of only four sub-60 rounds shot on a par-72 course. The two 59s shot in the Coachella Valley’s PGA Tour event, Duval’s on the Palmer Course at PGA West and Adam Hadwin’s in 2017 at La Quinta Country Club, were also on par-72 courses.

The right courses can produce a 59

“You see the 59s on some of the par-70 courses and at some of the shorter courses,” said Geiberger, who added he tends to notice certain tournaments on the Tour as they come up on the calendar as potential sites for 59s. The Old White TPC in West Virginia is one of those courses and has now hosted two 59s, one by Stuart Appleby in 2010 and one by Chappell last week.

Furyk’s 58 was shot on a par-70 course at the 2016 Travelers Championship, though as Geiberger notes Furyk’s round seems to be lumped in with the rest of the sub-60 rounds rather than as a singular 58 and a tour record.

Even with shorter courses and pars of 70, Geiberger admits today’s players might have more pressure on them as they near a sub-60 round than he did shooting a 59 in relative obscurity in the second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic.

“Today, every round is on television,” Geiberger said. “So they have the 59 Watch on the corner of the television screen and the cameras run out there and get around you. I didn’t have that when I shot my round. Then again, maybe these guys are just more used to it.”

For Geiberger, 42 years after his famous round, being known as Mr. 59 still resonates. Oncore Golf, which has signed Geiberger to an endorsement deal, held a contest across the country for someone to win a trip to play Colonial Country Club with Geiberger next month.

More than 35,000 people entered the contest, and the winner and a friend will play with Geiberger on the Memphis course on Oct. 5. He will then give a talk on the round to Colonial Country Club members.

“I gave a talk there 10 years ago, and they loved it so much that we are going to do it again,” Geiberger said. “It’s nice that they are proud of the fact that the 59 was shot on their course.”

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