Ranking the best sub-60 round on the PGA Tour

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At risk of stating the obvious, any round of golf played in fewer than 60 strokes is incredible. But if you had to rank them, which is the best?

After Jim Furyk’s record-breaking 12-under par 58 during the final round of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship we’ve been asked a few times whether this really was the best-ever round of golf on the PGA Tour.

After all, this was a par-70 golf course right? Is a 12-under par on a par-70 golf course as good as a 12-under par on a par-72? And were any of the other sub-60 rounds better than 12-under par?

There have been no sub-60 rounds ever carded on the European Tour although 18 players have come close and shot 60. Eight players on the European Tour have shot a score of 12-under par but as far as sub-60 rounds go it’s limited to the PGA Tour (considering the two big professional tours only).

58 (-12): Jim Furyk – 2016 Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands (par 70)
59 (-13): Al Geiberger – 1977 Memphis Classic Colonial Country Club (par 72)
59 (-13): Chip Beck – 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, Sunrise Golf Club (par 72)
59 (-13): David Duval – 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, PGA West (Palmer Course) (par 72)
59 (-12): Paul Goydos – 2010 John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run (par 71)
59 (-11): Stuart Appleby – 2010 Greenbrier Classic, The Old White Course (par 70)
59 (-12): Jim Furyk – 2013 BMW Championship, Conway Farms Golf Club (par 71)

So if you’d like to rank the rounds by purely their under-par total then you should consider the rounds by Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval as the best of the sub-60 rounds.

Al Geiberger was the first to do it back in June 1977 when he shot a 13-under 59 in the second round of the Memphis Classic in sweltering conditions. Geiberger hit every fairway and every green, including 23 putts and a chip-in on route to his record-breaking score. He eventually won the tournament by three strokes.

Chip Beck’s 59 in Las Vegas in 1991 comprised of five pars and 13 birdies, a record for the most number of birdies in a round on the PGA Tour. It started with a huge 60-foot putt on the first and he went on to not only make history but scooping $500,000 in a promotion Hilton Hotels were running at the time for to anyone who shot 59 that year; it was paid to him in $25,000 installments each year for 20 years.

Many golf fans will point towards David Duval’s round of 59 at the Bob Hope Classic in 1999 as the best. It was classic, text-book golf. No chip-in’s, hole-out’s or crazy recovery shots for 11 birdies and an eagle. The longest putt Duval made all day was 10-footer, with all putts totalling 52-feet.

Paul Goydos conceded to Golf Digest that he could have shot 66, admitting he got every break when he equalled the lowest score record in the first round of the John Deere Classic in 2010. Goydos had missed his previous two cuts before the phenomenal round that came out of nowhere sinking over 185 feet of putts. Remarkably, Steve Stricker shot 60 on the same day.

Just under two months later, Australian Stuart Appleby became the sixth member of the 59 Club when it propelled him to win the Greenbrier Classic by one shot and end a four-year winless streak on the PGA Tour. The 11-under par round was the first 59 to be carded on a par-70 golf course and Appleby was the first to bring up the potential argument.

“Look, I’ll debate it with you. I agree,” Appleby said immediately after his round. “I can see both sides of the fence. It is a number. I shot that number. But who says par is supposed to be 72? There’s a lot of great courses that aren’t 72.”

If you think a little more then course distance must play some role in determining the best round. Just because a 450-yard hole is called a par-4 on one course doesn’t mean another course may refer to it as a par-5. But maybe there are more scoring opportunities on longer courses with more par-5’s.

In short, it’s hard to compare apples with Stuart Appleby.

And prior to Furyk’s remarkable round of 58, he had already joined the elite sub-60 list on the PGA Tour. Furyk shot a 12-under 59 during the second round at the BMW Championship in 2012. On lightning fast greens, in a solid breeze and on a course he had barely seen before Furyk’s 59 included an eagle, 12 birdies and a bogey!

To give you some idea how good this previous round of Furyk’s was, the next best score was a 65 on the day.

It’s difficult to say which of the sub-60 rounds is truly the best, which is why there is so much emphasis on the actual number of strokes no matter what the par is for the course. But if you’re considering a round played in the fewest strokes, Jim Furyk’s remarkable 58 is unquestionably the best.