THE WAIT GOES ON FOR THAT ELUSIVE 59
NEARLY a quarter of a century on and still nobody on the European Tour can beat what Welshman David Llewellyn did in Biarritz in 1988.
En route to his only Tour victory – winning the World Cup with Ian Woosnam the previous season did not count – Llewellyn achieved two feats that remain in the record books.
His 72-hole total of 258 has been equalled only by Woosnam and his third round 60 has never been bettered either. Matched no fewer than 15 times, but never bettered.
Latest to fall just short of the magical 59 was American Ryder Cup player Brandt Snedeker on Saturday.
He stood over a putt of just under 20 feet on the final green at the HSBC Champions in China, but after an eagle and 10 birdies it still had to go in - and it didn’t.
“I was disappointed – in a career you might only get a couple of chances,” Snedeker said. “It just stinks not doing it.
“When I made eagle at the 15th the idea of shooting 59 came to me, but I knew I needed to make birdie at the last three holes.
“I definitely had some nerves going. I just kept telling myself to give it a chance.
“I misread it a little bit. I’d love to have that putt again.”
Snedeker can still say he is the only man to score a 60 in either a World Golf Championship or a major – remarkably, the record for golf’s four biggest events has been stuck at 63 ever since Johnny Miller first did it in 1973 – but 59 sounds so much more special.
The biggest problem for the FedEx Cup winner was that Mission Hills was a par 72 and he needed therefore to get to 13 under for the day. That is a tall order, even with five reachable par fives.
But whatever the par the pressure builds in the same way.
Only a week earlier on the par 71 Mines course in Malaysia two more Americans, Bo Van Pelt and Nick Watney, also needed a closing birdie for a 59.
Neither of them could even get a par. Van Pelt double-bogeyed for a 62, while Watney bogeyed for a 61.
And only last month South African Branden Grace went round Kingsbarns in Scotland in 60. He had to eagle the par five ninth – his last – but had to be content with a fifth successive birdie. Again, it was a par 72.
Next week’s Hong Kong Open on the par 6,734-yard par 70 Fanling course might see the European Tour’s first 59, but we have been saying that since it became part of the circuit a decade ago.
Ian Poulter has gone closest, shooting 60 two years ago, although with preferred lies it does not qualify as one of the record-holders.
Snedeker’s advice to all those in with a chance is simple – do not become afraid, have fun and be lucky.
“I made a 75-footer on the 13th from off the front of the green. Just a fluke thing.
“When you have these days you need to go as low as you possibly can. No reason to be nervous or scared – that’s the best you’re ever going to be over a ball, so you might as well go after it.
“These days happen maybe two times a year, so when you have them you’d better enjoy them.”
Llewellyn’s 60 came on a par 68 lay-out, while there have been four 60s on par 69s – three of them at the Monte Carlo Open and then Phillip Archer at Celtic Manor’s Roman Road course in 2006.
That was a golden opportunity. Requiring a birdie on the last Archer struck a 134-yard wedge to seven feet, but it clipped the left edge and stayed above ground.
“It was great seeing all the people around the green waiting to see if I could do it. I thought I’d read it perfectly – in fact I did read it perfectly. I just hit it a little too hard,” he said at the time.
“If I was to be a little hard on myself perhaps I should have tried to leave an uphill putt instead of a downhill one.”
So the wait went on – and still it goes on.