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?