In today’s modern age of “hash tags” and “tweets”, it’s such a rare feat the golf channel has dedicated #59WATCH anytime a golfer makes the 9 hole turn at 7 under or better. Many sports fans compare a golfer shooting 59 as the PGA Tour’s version of Baseball’s Perfect Game. It’s only been done 5 times in the history of the PGA Tour. Even adding the Web.Com Tour and the LPGA Tour, the accomplishment still only has a 13 golfer membership. The MLB has seen 23 perfect games in the history of the MLB. Similar to baseball’s traditions, anytime the #59WATCH is turned on, golf fans all over begin the quiet chatter that a new member may be joining the club. The playing partners of the golfer will leave the golfer in their own world, merely trying not to get in the way of the historical achievement. When the #59WATCH goes up, players in other groups begin asking announcers for updates as they go through their rounds avoiding any interruptions in the golfer’s focus.
The world watched as arguably #1 fan favorite golfer Phil Mickelson was heartbroken in January this year as his putt for 59 went a full 270 degrees around the cup only to lip out and leave a tap in for 60. Today the #59WATCH was turned on as Jim Furyk shot an -8 under 28 on the front 9, and added 2 more birdies in the next 4 holes to get to -11 under through 13 holes. So, did Jim make it to the coveted 59 today? Let’s first take a look at Jim’s swing and his career and shed some light on the man known as one of golf’s greatest grinders; but better known for his unorthodox approach to the golf swing.
In an era of the game where science and technology work together to build the “perfect” golf swing, and young golfers everywhere strive to stay either on 1 or 2 planes; Jim Furyk takes the simplest approach to the golf swing and does so with great success. Regardless of how you start the swing or how you finish the swing, the golf swing only matters for the few inches of impact with the golf ball. The swing starts at address, with positioning the ball towards the heel of the club. Jim’s hands are significantly closer to his body than an “ideal” golf swing, which causes Jim to take the club on a very vertical or outside swing path. At the top of the swing, Jim drops his arms and hands deep inside to return the club back on plane. His body then opens up immediately which allows his club to continue on the inside and correct path. Reinforced with Jim’s double-overlap grip (both ring and pinky finger on right-hand overlap the left knuckles), the swing is built for extremely accurate ball striking. While it lacks the power that’s built into the minds of today’s golfers; Jim’s increased flexibility and lower body movement allow adequate tour distance with better than tour average accuracy.
While Jim’s swing has been described as “an octopus falling out of a tree” or “a man killing a snake with an axe in a telephone booth”; and Jim’s quirkiness of addressing then backing off putts as part of the routine; Jim’s success speaks for itself. As #4 on the total on-course earnings money list, Jim has earned $55 million in his 21-year career with 16 PGA Tour wins including the 2003 U.S. Open and 2010 PGA Tour FedEx Cup. The only 3 golfer’s with more on-course earnings are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh.
So back to the #59WATCH today, and did Jim Furyk make it? Jim started on 10 today, so the last 4 holes are #6 - #9. After a 3-putt bogey on his 15th (#6), Furyk bounced back with birdie on his 16th (#7); Jim needed to shoot -1 on the last 2 holes of the round. Headed into his 17th (#8) the reachable par 5, Jim laced a fairway wood down the middle of the fairway to set him up in position for birdie. Deciding to go for the green in 2, his 2nd shot found himself in a steep vertical grass area surrounding a greenside bunker. Impossible to get close to the hole, Jim hit his 3rd shot to a downhill breaking 24 foot slider putt. Missing high on the left side, he was able to make his par putt and head to his 18th (#9) with a must make birdie to shoot 59. With driver down the right center of the fairway on the 386 yard par 4, and an approach shot from 103 yards to only 3 feet 3 inches, only a birdie putt just outside of tap in range remained between Jim and the coveted 59. As his playing partners cleared the green and set the stage, Jim went through his routine and hit a firm center birdie to become the 6th man in golf history to ever shoot 59.
11 birdies, 1 eagle, 5 pars, and 1 bogey on a par 71.
A final fact to this historical feat today, 2013 PGA Champion Jason Dufner was paired both with Phil Mickelson during his heartbreaking round of 60 at the Waste Management in January; and Dufner was paired with Jim Furyk today as he trudged his way through the #59WATCH pressure.