It started with an eagle. It ended with one, too. Justin Thomas shot a 11-under 59 in Round 1 of the Sony Open on Thursday to take the lead just four days after winning the Tournament of Champions.
Thomas’ 59 is just the seventh in PGA Tour history and the first with multiple eagles. The 23-year-old is also the youngest to break 60. The lowest-recorded score in PGA Tour history is a 58, which has been achieved once.
Thomas went out in 29 (he started on the back) with an eagle hole-out at the 10th, his first on the day). Then it looked as if he might not make it to 59 on the way home. He saved a long par putt at the eighth hole (his 17th of the day) before hitting his tee shot on the final hole into a fairway bunker where it looked like the dream had died. Thomas need to reach the par 5 on his second shot but was in a tough spot in the sand.
“I’m like, ‘[playing partner Daniel Berger] just did it [from the same spot],” said Thomas. “This isn’t a time for me to lay it up. [I] had a perfect lie. I told [caddie] Jimmy [Johnson], he just asked what I could get on it. I said, ‘I think I can get a 5-iron on it.’ I don’t know if hitting it that high if I can get it there but it was sitting good enough where I could take it. I don’t know why we wouldn’t try it. This is the time when you try and just hit it perfect.”
From there he stuck an iron to 15 feet and buried the eagle for history as playing partners Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger looked on. Spieth and Berger were openly rooting all day for Thomas’ putts to fall. The entire show was awesome to watch.
“I was calm, I wasn’t too nervous over the putt,” said Thomas. “I was just more focused on trying to make the putt. I think I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in. I thought about it going up to the green. I’m like, ‘If I make it, what am I going to do?’ It’s not like winning a tournament. It’s like, ‘Hey, unbelievable round, you have three days left to try to play well.’
“So I didn’t really know how to react. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean that much. So that part was a little odd, and I don’t even know what I did. I just know I looked at them, and they were going nuts, and I think I went nuts, and then I think we just high-fived.
“The coolest part for me was how excited they were for me on 18. To do that with two of your best friends out here and two of your friends that you played with for so long. There’s a handful of guys that are just cool to be around, but those are people that I’m going to be playing with and hanging out with for the next 20, 25 years out here. I’ll have that on them for now but that was a lot of fun.”
Spieth shared some thoughts as well: “I was nervous on my putt, and I realized that it wasn’t for my putt. Honestly, I was sitting there like, ‘Why am I nervous on my putt? I’m six back right now. Why am I nervous?’ And then I realized afterwards, it didn’t go away after I hit my putt, so I was nervous for him. That’s a really, really tough putt that he just hit in order to get to the hole. I mean, uphill, left-to-right, with that much pressure, it’s easy to just feel like you’re not going to be as aggressive with it and give it a chance to die in. And he just put a really, really nice aggressive stroke on it and it held in there. I mean, Berg and I reacted accordingly, I think.”
Thomas did all of this with a bogey on his card which might be the most remarkable part of his extraordinary day. The bogey came at the 11th (which was Thomas’ second). From there, he was straight fire, making birdies on eight of his next 11 holes before the eagle at the last.
The 59 (obviously) broke the course record at Waialae Country Club which was previously held by Davis Love III who shot 60 at the 1994 Sony Open. Thomas joins a select group of golfers who have played a PGA Tour event in under 60 strokes.
|Justin Thomas||59||1||Sony Open||2017|
|Jim Furyk||58||4||Travelers Championship||2016|
|Jim Furyk||59||2||BMW Championship||2013|
|Stuart Appleby||59||4||Greenbrier Classic||2010|
|Paul Goydos||59||1||John Deere Classic||2010|
|David Duval||59||4||CareerBuilder Challenge||1999|
|Chip Beck||59||3||Shriners Hospitals for Children Open||1991|
|Al Geiberger||59||2||St. Jude Classic||1977|
This is obviously an accomplishment of the highest merit. There have been around 1.5 million rounds in PGA Tour history and just eight of them have ended in the 50s. Thomas is now part of that exclusive company. It’s also just the second sub-60 round ever that included a bogey on the card.
Now, Thomas will look to get his second-straight win (and third of the young season). In just three of the previous seven instances in which a golfer broke 60, he eventually went on to win the tournament. And never has a golfer shot 59 or better in Round 1 and won.
“It’s a course where no lead or no margin is really safe,” said Thomas. “They are going to be firing at it tomorrow morning. So I need to get ready to get my mind ready and my game, try to keep it sharp to try to post another good one tomorrow.”