Greason: 59 makes 58 mean more for Furyk
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, September 2, 2016
Nearly 40 years ago, Al Geiberger became the first player to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour. While the 1966 PGA champion still goes by the nickname “Mr. 59,” in essence, he never did anything noteworthy after his history-making round.
Let’s fast forward 36 years, to when Jim Furyk became the sixth golfer on the Tour ever to match Geiberger’s magic number: 59. The golf world went crazy. The image of Furyk, his 5-Hour Energy cap on backwards, mid-fist pump and yelling in elation will forever be engrained in the minds of everyone watching. Almost immediately, the World Golf Hall of Fame opened an exhibit on Furyk’s round at the BMW Championship. Because shooting 59 is that big a deal. It doesn’t happen to just anyone, and it takes true mental fortitude and talent to pull off, along with just a little bit of luck.
There’s a reason Golf Channel still puts up the #59watch watermark whenever someone is on track to have the round of a lifetime, even though six people have already reached the 59 milestone. That’s because that’s exactly what it is for most of the golfers who could be on track for a 59: the round of a lifetime. In every case of a PGA Tour member shooting a 59, it was the best round of his life. Well, in every case except for one.
At the start of August, Jim Furyk did the unthinkable and broke through the 59 ceiling, shooting an unprecedented 58 in the final round of the Travelers Championship and becoming the first to do so in a PGA event.
Again, the golf world lost its collective mind. The World Golf Hall of Fame, for the second time in three years, opened another shrine to Furyk’s latest round of a lifetime. However, that, in and of itself, is what differentiates Furyk from his fellow “Mr. 59s.” Because everyone else who earned the nickname peaked the moment they signed that historic scorecard. Sure, the names Appleby and Duval ring bells to those who spend Thursday through Sunday camped out listening to Johnny Miller and David Feherty analyze swings, but for all intents and purposes, Furyk is the only “Mr. 59” who has mattered since he earned the name.
Over his long career, Furyk has picked up 17 tour wins — including the 2010 FedEx Cup and the $10 million purse that comes with it — and the 2003 U.S. Open, of course, on top of the two best scores in the history of the PGA Tour. It is what sets Furyk apart. That is why the golf world glued itself to the television when Furyk went on his charge for 58 in August. It’s because Jim Furyk shooting a 58 means so much more than anyone else shooting a 58. His 59, which was previously considered to be the pinnacle of the sport as whole, was not the round of his lifetime. He accomplished even more.
If you or I went out and shot a 58 tomorrow, very few people would give it a second thought. It would be written off as luck and become family folklore. But Jim Furyk shooting 58 matters. It matters because of his 59. The combination of those two scores — the combination that only he holds — is proof that Furyk is not simply one of the lucky ones. He is also one of the greats.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.