What is the greatest round ever played?

Photo from GeoffShackelford.com

Photo from GeoffShackelford.com

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Play well!

 

Advertisements

About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
This entry was posted in Opinion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to What is the greatest round ever played?

  1. Brian

    WOW. Those are 3 great rounds! It is hard to determine which is the greatest rounds in golf. But I would suggest that the greatest round ever depends on the perspective of the observer. What about Paul Lowey’s10 stroke swing in the 1999 British Open over Jean Van de Velde. I love your premise, your question is so difficult to answer! Thanks for making me think!

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, very interesting about Lowery. I had forgotten all about that one. Maybe because it was more about Van de Velde’s historic collapse, or whatever that implosion was. 🙂 Now I’m trying to recall other champions who sort of backed into a win because of someone else’s misfortune.

      Thanks!

      Brian

  2. Bob Goalby is the biggest example of backing into a win

  3. Brian,

    It’s definitely hard to argue with Geiburger’s considering, as you mentioned, the era and the difficulty of the venue. There are so many great rounds and the things that make them great all vary. There have probably been rounds of 69 in a U.S Ope that would be considered a greater round than 63’s shot in Palm Desert. This could turn into a lengthy discussion, love the question.

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, great point about the 69 vs 63. That got me thinking if the lowest round I ever shot was the best round I ever played and the answer there is “no” as well! How about you?

      Thanks,

      Brian

      • Brian, now that I think about it, my low round of 70 (in a casual round) probably wasn’t the most satisfying round I’ve ever played, it would be a 74 I shot in competition in tough conditions.

        Cheers
        Josh

        • Brian Penn says:

          Josh, as is the case most of the time, when we excel and it happens to be during a competitive round, that’s the memory that truly sticks out.

          Thanks,

          Brian

  4. Just from a pure stats point of view, I think the greatest round would be determine by two things. What was the next best round and what was the average score of the field that day. There may be some rounds out there that the number may not be that low but due to the conditions may have been the greatest. Some of Tiger’s rounds in the majors that he won by 12 and 15 shots may be up for consideration.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Vet, completely agree. Then “strokes gained” is the salient measurement. I’m going to try and find that from a historical perspective. Thanks for the 180 degree view!

      Brian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s