What qualifies a round of golf for greatest ever played? A week ago, Canadian Adam Hadwin shot the ninth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history, and his 59 at La Quinta Country Club was only the fourth round of 13-under par in that group. Hadwin’s 59 was the third sub-60 round on tour in the last five months, which is truly amazing. Justin Thomas fired a 59 just 10 days ago and Jim Furyk shot the only 58 in Tour history on August 7, 2016 to round out the group. Despite holding the record low score, Furyk’s 58 was a 12-under effort carded on a par 70 track. Are any of these rounds the greatest?
There have been 30 rounds of 63 carded in a major championship but never a 62. Are any of these rounds the greatest? Is it harder to break 60 in a regular tour event than shoot 63 in a pressure packed major? I would propose it is since so many more rounds have been played in regular events, and it’s been done only nine times.
To pick the greatest round ever, we need to consider the era in which it was shot, the difficulty of the venue, the pressure the player was under, and also weigh the historical significance. I submit there are three rounds for consideration:
Johnny Miller’s 63 in the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Of all the 63s shot in a major, only Miller’s round and Henrik Stenson’s in last year’s Open Championship were shot in the fourth round AND saw the player win the tournament. Throw in the pressure of the U.S. Open, and the toughness of Oakmont, and the caliber of equipment Miller was playing with, and you have a serious candidate.
Stenson’s aforementioned 63 in the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon. What’s seared into our memories is the incredible pressure Phil Mickelson (65) put on Stenson as they dueled head-to-head in the final round, and the fact that Stenson had never won a major. The pressure had to be tremendous and I remember shaking my head in disbelief at how cool, calm, and collected Stenson was. After all, his reputation as a finisher was far from stellar.
Al Geiberger’s 13-under 59 in the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club. Of all the sub-60 rounds, this was tops because of the venue and era. The par-72 Colonial Country Club course was playing at 7,334 yards, which is medium long by today’s standards but was huge back then. With 1977 era equipment, Geiberger’s performance was all the more spectacular. His sub 60 was the remotest of possibilities. To put it in perspective, Furyk’s 12-under 58 at the TPC River Highlands was on a venue playing 6,841 yards with new equipment, and was shot in the fourth round with Furyk out of contention.
My choice here is for Geiberger by a nose over Miller. So what’s your pick for greatest round ever played? Have I missed one that you’d put in the top three?
I do think that 2017 is going to be a special year from a scoring perspective. I doubt if we’ll see another 59, but am definitely looking for someone to break 63 in a major. If and when that happens, who do you think it will be and where?
I am fond of Charles Mingus’ old saying that goes, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” In 2013 Rory McIlroy changed to Nike equipment and struggled for half a year with the change, and he’s a professional. He had millions of reasons to complicate his life.
Last weekend I re-gripped my golf clubs and made an interesting discovery. The three Cleveland CG-16 wedges that came with my custom fit Mizuno irons had several layers of tape built up on the shaft under the right hand. It’s a common practice to build up the right hand on wedges, but I have never played with the right hand built up. I began to wonder if this was related to the problems (chip yips) I had experienced since changing wedges. After the grips were dry, I took them out to the driving range for a bake off with my old Cleveland Tour Action gap and sand wedges. The results favored the older wedges, so I removed the CG 50, 54, and 58 wedges for my round today, and replaced them with the two Tour Action wedges and a 5-WD.
Previously, I’d hit all my sand and green-side shots fine with the 56 degree Tour Action. During my round today I felt very confident around the greens chipping and pitching with the older club. I realized that the only reason I removed the older wedges was because the new three wedge system came with my club fitting. By changing equipment for the wrong reason, I may have inadvertently messed with my short game. With the new clubs, I was trying to decide which shot and technique to use based on whether I was using the 54 or 58. Egad.
It’s been said that putting old equipment back in your bag is like getting back together with an old girl friend. It’s great at first but you eventually remember why you broke up. Nobody forced me to dump my old wedges, they were working fine. This break up should never have happened.
Which camp do you fall in? When you play your best on the golf course how do you feel, confident or cocky? Try to align yourself with one of today’s top professionals. Jason Day is confident. Henrik Stenson is confident. Dustin Johnson is surprisingly confident and a little bit humble. Just look at Rory McIlroy’s gait when he is winning. Tremendously cocky. Jordan Speith has transitioned from a cocky youth to confident consummate professional. When he was at his peak, Tiger Woods was the most cocky AND confident player on the planet. Now he exhibits neither, which is why I’m skeptical of his comeback attempt. Phil Mickelson, the ultimate showman, is both. Bottom line: To play effectively, you need one or the other.
WARNING ALARM! I hope this isn’t you. The last time I played my best, I was neither confident nor cocky but rather surprised. This is not a good state to be in. It was probably due to my lower level of preparation and infrequent play. However, five years ago, I was in an excellent hot streak and exhibited a high level of confidence. When I play and practice a lot, my confidence rises. Normally, I’m a 95% confident type, but when the 5% cocky appears, I’ll try some boneheaded shot that I haven’t practiced, which leads to a triple bogey. Have any of you confident types experienced this?
Our personality leads us to either a confident or cocky on-course persona and it’s best to play to your personality. Unless your on-course behavior is horrible, when we deviate from our personality is when we screw up. If you are a gregarious show-off, normally you’ll fall in the cocky camp and need to play as such to be comfortable, but if you’re a more quiet unassuming strategist, you’ll play as a confident type. This is why it took Phil Mickelson so long to adjust his on course behavior away from taking unnecessary risks that cost him several major championships. He’s still cocky at heart but has learned to become more of a tactician that always plays with a game plan. I think fans still love when “Phil The Thrill” comes out, but watch him in the majors and especially at The Masters. He’ll come out with a confident game plan and rarely deviates.
To be successful, you need one or the other. To find yours, think back when you were in competition and playing your best (and your worst). What did you have and what were you missing? As mentioned earlier, at my best I was supremely confident. At my worst I had nothing and was completely intimidated.
Confident vs. cocky; what works for you? Shoot me a comment with your type and a story if you’ve got one. Play well!
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