From the Rough

Golf without discretion

Turning back the clock: Zach Johnson flirts with 59 at East Lake

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It’s hard to believe we’re in the midst of a one week lull in the tour’s schedule. If you’re like me, then you’ve probably wondering what you should do with all this free time on your hands. No golf on the tube means more time to get in a quick 18, spend some time on your fantasy football team, and maybe, just maybe, spending some extra time with your wife…if you’re into that sorta thing.

But for those us who write and rely on golf for our livelihood, well we’ve got to find a way to fill the blank space this week until next week gets here. To fill that space today, we bring you the first of what could be two or three reviews on previous Tour Championship moments. Today’s moment: Zach Johnson’s round of 60 at the 2007 Tour Championship.

Here’s the report gave after Johnson’s superb round of golf:

As the writers filed into the interview room to talk with Zach Johnson, the reigning Masters champion was miffed. “The strict order was, ‘If you tell me, I’ll kill you.'” Someone had inadvertently broken Johnson’s order and Iowa’s favorite son had been told the fourth-quarter score between his beloved Hawkeyes and arch-rival Iowa State.

But Johnson’s frustration over losing a fun evening in front of the VCR faded as he talked about his third-round performance at East Lake. Johnson set a new course record Saturday at the Tour Championship by shooting 60, becoming the 20th player in PGA Tour history to do so. Only three players — Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval — have ever shot 59 in a Tour event.

On a day that saw the soggy course bathed in sunshine, Johnson made pars on his first two holes. He then hit into a fairway bunker left of the fairway on the third hole, but scored his first birdie after hitting an 8-iron 137 yards to within four feet of the hole.

Hard to believe he had two pars on the front nine and still shot 31 (he birdied four, six and nine to finish out the front side). But if there was one thing that was more impressive, it was that Johnson went out and fired a 29 on the back!

The back nine 29 included birdies on 10, 12, 13 and an eagle on the 16th to really put the pressure on the final hole of the day. If you’ll recall, the 18th at East Lake is a par 3 that plays about 220+ yards on most days. On that particular day it was playing 223 yards. Johnson pulled out a 2-iron, stood over the ball and placed his 58th shot of the day right in the bunker.

Needing to get it up and down for a remarkable 60, Johnson found the nerves to do just that. When asked about the putt for 60, the soft-spoken Iowan said something many that day never expected: “I was extremely nervous over that putt on 18,” he admitted. “Even more than I was at Augusta, or any other tournament.”

It’s hard to imagine a putt for 60 could be more nerve-wracking than a crucial putt to win the Masters. Regardless, the feat at the 2007 Tour Championship is still one to behold to this day.


Written by Jonathan Wall

09/16/2009 at 8:43 pm

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