Remembering Duval's famous 59 at the Desert Classic
Twenty years ago, he became the first winner to break 60 on a Sunday
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
It was just the third 59 in PGA TOUR history, and the first shot on Sunday to win a tournament.
And David Duval didn’t have to make a putt outside 10 feet to do it.
“I probably can't play better,” he said afterwards.
This week’s Desert Classic marks the 20th anniversary of that historic round. It was part of a dominant stretch that saw Duval supplant Tiger Woods atop the world ranking.
Duval started 1999 with a nine-shot victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. His next start came at the Desert Classic. He was 52 under par in his first nine rounds of the year (the Desert Classic was a 90-hole event).
He won THE PLAYERS Championship two months later to reach No. 1 in the world ranking. His win at the following week’s BellSouth Classic was his 11th in 34 starts, a stretch that started when he won his first event in October 1997.
DUVAL’S 59 BY THE NUMBERS
Greens hit: 17 of 18
Fairways hit: 11 of 13
Approaches within 5 feet: 9
Approaches within 20 feet: 15
Longest putt holed: 10 feet
Strokes Gained: Putting: +1.97*
* - based on Duval's hole-by-hole recollections.
Duval’s peak didn't last long – the 2001 Open Championship was his 13th, and final, TOUR win – but few players could hang with him when his iron play was on.
Just two men had broken 60 before him – Al Geiberger in 1977 and Chip Beck in 1991. It was an especially rare feat at the time, but Duval’s impressive iron play on that day led playing partner Jeff Maggert to call it an “easy 59.”
It’s the lowest final-round score, in relation to par, by a winner. Stuart Appleby is the only other player to win by shooting 59 on Sunday, which he did on the par-70 Old White TPC at the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
Half of Duval’s approach shots at PGA West’s Palmer Private Course stopped within 5 feet of the hole. He hit 15 approaches within 20 feet. He missed just one green and two fairways.
“I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball that close for an entire round,” Maggert said.
Duval wasn’t just making birdie with his wedge in hand. He was knocking mid-irons close to the hole.
“It was sort of like a no-hitter,” Maggert said. “I didn't want to say the wrong thing. Finally, after he stiffed it for the fourth straight time on a par 3, I said, 'I didn't realize we were playing par 2s today.'"
Duval’s performance on the par 3s was a display of ball-striking beauty. It started with a 6-iron to 3 feet on the third hole. Two holes later, he hit a 5-iron to 5 feet. Then he hit a 6-iron to 2 feet on the 12th hole and an 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 15.
Duval eagled the par-5 finishing hole after hitting a 5-iron from 218 yards to 6 feet.
We can now calculate Duval’s Strokes Gained: Putting based on his post-round recollection of each hole. He gained slightly less than 2 strokes on the greens (+1.97), the lowest Strokes Gained: Putting performance in the eight sub-60 rounds for which we have shot-by-shot data.
Duval could have gone even lower. He missed birdie opportunities from 12, 15 and 20 feet.
Of the 10 sub-60 rounds on TOUR, Duval’s is one of just three that didn’t include a hole-out from off the green (Appleby and Beck are the others).
Geiberger’s ground-breaking round included a pitch-in from 30 yards, as well as nine putts holed from outside 10 feet. Brandt Snedeker holed an iron shot in his 59 at last year’s Wyndham Championship, as did Jim Furyk in both of his sub-60 rounds.
Adam Hadwin chipped in with a hybrid to shoot 59 in the 2017 CareerBuilder and Justin Thomas chipped in for eagle on the first hole of his 59 at Waialae. Beck didn't sink a shot from off the putting surface, but he did hole a 60-footer on the first hole.
Duval didn’t need any such shot to break 60.
Here’s a look at each of Duval’s holes in his historic round (birdies and eagles in bold):
- No. 1: Pitching wedge to 5 feet. Birdie.
- No. 2: Chip shot to 3 feet. Birdie.
- No. 3: 6-iron to 3 feet. Birdie.
- No. 4: 9-iron to 15 feet. Par.
- No. 5: 5-iron to 5 feet. Birdie.
- No. 6: Sand wedge to 30 feet. Par.
- No. 7: 7-iron to 40 feet. Par.
- No. 8: Sand wedge over green. Made 6-foot par putt.
- No. 9: 8-iron to 8 feet. Birdie.
He shot 31 on the front nine. He really heated up on the back nine, hitting eight approach shots within 12 feet of the hole en route to an 8-under 28.
- No. 10: Sand wedge to 5 feet. Birdie.
- No. 11: Chip shot to 1 foot. Birdie.
- No. 12: 6-iron to 2 feet. Birdie.
- No. 13: 7-iron to 12 feet. Par.
- No. 14: Sand wedge to 10 feet. Birdie.
- No. 15: 8-iron to 2 feet. Birdie.
- No. 16: Sand wedge to 1 foot. Birdie.
- No. 17: 9-iron to 20 feet. Par.
- No. 18: 5-iron to 6 feet. Eagle.
Johnny Miller, another man with a reputation for knocking iron shots close, said Duval’s follow-through was key to his power and accuracy.
“He has tremendous range of motion and total extension to the target,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “His distance control was phenomenal. He hits that wonderful high fade with his irons that is the scoring shot when the greens are firm. Where David has the advantage over me is length.
"He is a gifted ball-striker, like guys such as Nick Price, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins and myself, but he's so much stronger than any of us.”
In 1999, Duval led the TOUR in greens in regulation, hitting nearly 74 percent. He also hit 75 percent of his fairways while ranking ninth in driving distance (286.9 yards).
Duval’s ball-striking was incredible. And, for one day, it was nearly perfect.
|STROKES GAINED: PUTTING IN SUB-60 ROUNDS|
|Paul Goydos||2010 John Deere||+8.15*|
|Stuart Appleby||2010 Greenbrier||+5.98|
|Adam Hadwin||2017 Desert Classic||+5.53|
|Jim Furyk||2013 BMW||+4.09|
|Justin Thomas||2017 Sony||+4.00|
|Brandt Snedeker||2018 Wyndham||+3.34*|
|Jim Furyk (58)||2016 Travelers||+3.31|
|David Duval||1999 Desert Classic||+1.97|
|* - includes putts holed from fringe, which are not normally counted in SG: Putting. Goydos holed a 14-footer from the fringe and Snedeker holed a 20-footer from the fringe. Hole-by-hole data for Geiberger's and Beck's rounds unavailable.|