A Good Day for Golfers to Go Low
When the young Irishman, Rory McIlroy, shot his spectacular 62 on the very difficult Quail Hollow course in Charlotte to win for the first time on the PGA Tour a week ago today, he surely was the best golfer in the world that day. Or was he?
In an astonishing day of golf that involved two record performances by youngsters half a world apart, McIlroy’s round was 14 hours after and four shots short of a 58 turned in by Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who easily won The Crowns tournament in Togo, Japan.
McIlroy was still 20 when he won the Quail Hollow championship with the lowest round in that tourney’s history. He turned 21 on Tuesday. Ishikawa is only 18 years old and won’t be 19 until September 17.
Both of these golfers have been the talk of international tours for some time. They are currently the most prominent young pros considered at all capable of challenging the supremacy of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or whoever else among the “older” touring pros might be No. 1 in the world on any given week.
For both of them to turn in such amazing rounds on the same day makes May 2, 2010, one of those days to remember. It may mark a launching date for a couple of very interesting careers in pro golf.
Most golf fans believe that Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval and Annika Sorenstam shot the lowest rounds in competitive pro golf as each of them posted a 59 during their tour careers. These fans, however, are mistaken, although 59 is the lowest score shot so far on the American PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.
Geiberger was first to do this when he shot a 59 in the second round of the Danny Thomas Classic, June 10, 1977, on the Colonial CC course in Memphis, Tenn. Beck posted his 59 in the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational, September 11, 1991, on the Sunrise GC course. Duval, with an eagle 3 on the final hole, had his 59 in the fifth and final round of the Bob Hope Classic, Jan. 24, 1999, on the PGA West Palmer Course in LaQuinta, Calif.
Sorenstam posted her 59 in the second round of the Standard Register Ping Classic, March 16, 2000, on the Moon Valley CC course in Phoenix, Ariz.
Beck did not win that Las Vegas Invitational that was won by Andrew Magee. Duval needed that eagle on the 90th hole of the Bob Hope to win by a single stroke. Geiberger won rather handily in Memphis, as did Sorenstam in Phoenix.
Ryo Ishikawa’s 58 wasn’t the first round of 58 shot in pro competition. It was the third.
The first 58 ever posted in primary international competitive golf was recorded by another well-known Japanese golfer, Shigeki Maruyama, who did so here in the United States 10 years ago.
Coincidentally, Maruyama finished tied for eighth behind Ishikawa at The Crowns tourney last Sunday. In fact, the 40-year-old Maruyama was leading The Crowns after three rounds. Ishikawa was six shots off that lead prior to last Sunday’s final round of 58 on the 6,545-yard, par 70 Nagoya GC Wago Course.
Maruyama, who has competed in all four major tournaments plus numerous events on our PGA Tour, carded his 58 on June 5, 2000, during the first 18 of 36 holes qualifying for the United States Open Championship that was to be held at Pebble Beach the following week.
Maruyama shot that 58 round on the South Course of the Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md. After scoring 29s on both the front and back nines of the 6,700-yard South Course, he went over to the more difficult North Course at Woodmont where he needed 16 more strokes to complete a round of 2-over 74. But he easily qualified for the 2000 U.S.Open and then failed to make the cut at Pebble Beach.
That was the U.S.Open when Tiger Woods ran away from the field to win the title by a record 15 strokes. This year’s U.S. Open will also be at Pebble Beach next month.
The second 58 recorded and the first such score on a professional golf tour was achieved on the Canadian PGA Tour by Jason Bohn, a Pennsylvania-born pro golfer who won his second United States PGA Tour event by taking the New Orleans Zurich Classic just two weeks ago today.
Bohn was an amateur golfer until 1992 when he was playing in a charity event one day while still a sophomore on a golf scholarship at the University of Alabama. During that day’s golf, the 19-year-old Bohn made a hole-in-one that was worth $1 million.
He immediately gave up his golf scholarship and dropped out of Alabama to pursue his lifelong ambition of becoming a touring pro. Failing to qualify for the American PGA Tour, Bohn pursued his profession north of the border on the Canadian Tour and back here on the Nationwide Tour for a few years before getting promoted to the PGA Tour.
Bohn shot his 58 in the final round of the Canadian Tour’s Bayer Championship on the Huron Oaks Golf and CC in Sarnia, Ontario, Sept. 16, 2001. He won the tournament by two shots.
Bohn described his 58 this way: “I think this 58 means more to me than the million dollar hole-in-one because it is something I earned on my own as opposed to a lucky shot.”
Bohn’s 58 differs from the 58 by each of the two Japanese golfers because he scored the very low round despite having a bogey at the 10th hole. Neither Ishikawa nor Maruyama had a bogey to overcome while shooting 58.
Bohn made the cut but was nine shots off the lead midway through The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., this weekend, while McIlroy failed to make the cut.
Those four 59s are usually considered by most golf fans as the very best scores ever shot. But just because they were shot on the highly-regarded American tours does not mean the three 58s were posted on rinky-dink golf courses by “lucky” golfers.
To say that is to belittle Ishikawa, Maruyama and Bohn, each of whom is a fine professional golfer. And Ishikawa may be one with a great future ahead of him.
Ishikawa and McIlroy turned in truly eye-popping scores a week ago.
But I remember shooting 58 once. Then I played the back nine.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His e-mail is email@example.com
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