Tour Confidential: Is shooting 59 on the PGA Tour as meaningful as it used to be?

August 20, 2018

Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they discuss the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. Tonight we discuss Brandt Snedeker’s 59, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and more.

1. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup veteran Brandt Snedeker won the Wyndham Championship on Sunday, capping off a big week that saw him shoot an historic 59 in the first round. Does he deserve to get one of Jim Furyk’s captain’s picks and play on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in Paris?

Sean Zak, assistant editor (@sean_zak): Nah. One tournament doesn’t make a captain’s pick. Could he be good for the team? Sure. But let’s see it over the next few weeks as well.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor (@Jeff_Ritter): He’s a streaky player, and after shooting a 59 early and managing to close out the win, he’s now at least in the conversation. I think he has more work to do, but given his experience, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sneds in Paris.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@alanshipnuck): Furyk has to be impressed – both times he broke 60 he failed to win the actual tournament! Sneds might be the most underrated player in golf and he would certainly be an asset to the U.S. team. But in the Task Force era there is a lot of emphasis on planning for the future. Among the top eight automatic qualifiers only one – Justin Thomas – is a Ryder rookie. Given that old lions Tiger and Phil will be captain’s picks, I could see a philosophical decision to give a pick to a young stud like Xander Schauffele or Bryson DeChambeau. But if Sneds stays hot over the next couple of weeks it might be impossible to ignore him.

Josh Sens, contributing writer (@JoshSens): It was an impressive weekend for Snedeker but too many other guys have had long stretches of stellar play this season for Snedeker to vault over them. I don’t see him quite making the cut.

John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): Well, I’m certain he’s got the Captain’s full attention. If he keeps up the great play for the next two weeks I’d say he’s got as good of if not better shot than anyone. Those picks are designated for horses for courses, for pairings compatibility, and for players in good form. With that performance Sneds has certainly raised his hand in class and the teacher knows he’s there.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Sneds is now the ultimate bubble boy, and if he makes it it will be as the last man in. If he wins again, for sure. If he contends and doesn’t fold I think that will be enough. If he just plugs along then there’s no way he gets chosen.

Brandt Snedeker 59, Tour Confidential WYndham Championship
Brandt Snedeker fired the 10th sub-60 round, and ninth 59, in PGA Tour history Thursday at the Wyndham Championship.

2. Speaking of Snedeker, his 59 on Thursday at the Wyndham was the 10th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. With all the equipment advances and the fact that someone has broken 60 in each of the last three years, is this accomplishment as significant as it used to be?

Zak: Even though it was great, it’s definitely not as significant as the score used to be. He gained some 9.7 strokes on the field average, which is stellar, but less than the 10-plus that Justin Thomas gained on the field during his 63 at Erin Hills. 59 stands for something, but it’s all relative.

Shipnuck: The number still has meaning. Just less than it used to.

Ritter: Hey, we led with it that day! I think a 59 is sort of like a perfect game in baseball — they aren’t all created equal, but they’re special nonetheless.

Sens: The stats say it all. When a feat grows more common it’s by definition less significant. Not that any of us could come close to it.

Wood: Still a magic number, but not as significant as it once was. Al Geiberger first shot it in 1977, and it didn’t happen again until Chip Beck in 1991. I believe it’s happened eight times since 1999 on the PGA Tour (including as noted the last three years) as well as many more on the Web.Com, Challenge, Senior PGA Tour and LPGA Tours. So still magical, but not the same impact as Big Al’s was in 1977.

Bamberger: I am now and have since 1977 been freaked out by any golf score below 60 on any full-length course with a legit par of 70 or higher. It still gets my complete attention and when I knew Snedeker was going low I started watching every shot, via internet magic.

3. Next season the FedEx Cup Playoffs will be reduced to three events (sorry Deutsche Bank Championship) and move to August, thanks to the PGA’s own move to May. Is the schedule shakeup a good or bad thing for the playoffs?

Zak: Great! Less events adds greater meaning to all three surviving events. Thankfully the Tour figured out a way to not ignore Boston entirely. And finally, no Tour Championship on an NFL Sunday. That’s the point everyone has been making for years.

Shipnuck: Looking at how dead the sports calendar is these days it’s kind of incredible the PGA gave up its August date, so from that standpoint alone it’s a good move. And three weeks is a better change – how much foreplay can fans be expected to endure?

Sens: This is a case where less is more. The fewer events, the more weighty each one feels. If anything this schedule shift might be doing the playoffs a favor.

Ritter: Oh, the new schedule is a win for the playoffs. It dragged too long, and too deep into the football season. And it’s always been bizarre how players can skip one of the four weeks and still win it. I’d guess cutting it down a week will eliminate that little loophole as well.

Wood: I think it’s a good thing, but only time will tell. To get all the playoffs over before football starts is huge. The playoffs will have the sports calendar to themselves as baseball will still be in the regular season and football won’t have started. With a couple of exciting finishes to the next two FedEx Cups, the champion and the playoffs themselves will get a lot more media attention than they did when college and NFL Football were in full swing.

Bamberger: It will be better. The changes were made to accommodate FedEx in every sense. Nobody is winging a decision this big. This is calculated to be better for FedEx, the company and the playoff series named for it.

2018 FedEx Cup Playoffs, Tour Confidential
The 2018 FedEx Cup Playoffs begin this week at the Northern Trust Open.

4. As for this year, are you more excited for this FedEx Cup Playoffs than in previous seasons, or does it still leave you feeling underwhelmed?

Zak: Now that Brooks Koepka claimed the second major the POY race is complete. That’s too bad. BUT this Tiger Woods guy will be competing (likely four times), chasing after that elusive first win in more than five years. That’s compelling enough. Oh, and Ryder Cup captain’s picks.

Shipnuck: Bingo.

Sens: I’ve always been lukewarm on them. It gives me the feeling of watching the already rich count their money. It feels even less exciting in Ryder Cup years, when so much other excitement is brewing.

Ritter: Tiger and the RC drama add all the juice you need for these next four weeks. I’m pumped for them.

Wood: It’s tough. The playoffs are huge, and making the Tour Championship is such a goal every year, but for the first couple of events I think there will be more focus on the RC picks.

Bamberger: I like the events. What’s not to like? Good fields, great cities, some good courses. But I have not ever felt anything like true “playoff fever,” as we know it from other sports. Not remotely. Not in any way. Underwhelmed would be an overstatement. But they’re good Tour stops, and that’s enough to make you care.

5. One Internet golf commentator, who shall remain nameless, took a shot at Tiger Woods’s legend this week, stating that Woods “dominated a bad era of golf” and that he never had to compete against “a guy like Brooks Koepka” during his peak. No doubt tournament fields get better and deeper every year, but should that take away from Tiger’s historic play in the 2000s?

Zak: No. Just because Albert Pujols hits less home runs than he used to doesn’t mean the mid-2000s pitching at the top of pro baseball wasn’t still great. It’s a folly take, and Dylan Dethier said as much on his great Internet TV show called the Drop Zone.

Shipnuck: Who did Tiger have to beat? Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Padraig. Total studs in any era. Retief, Zach, Duval, Adam Scott, Davis Love, Justin Leonard, Sergio, Furyk, Westwood – huge talents whose careers were stunted by Tiger’s very presence. Among today’s players, who are the studs? Koepka, Jordan, McIlroy (emeritus), JT. Dustin should be on that list but has squandered too many chances in the majors. Bubba, maybe. Patrick Reed could earn the honorific if he keeps going. Jason Day if he could ever stay healthy. But would any of these guys even be on this list if they had to tangle with Peak Tiger? Highly debatable.

Ritter: Can’t say it any better. Without Tiger, Phil and Ernie probably have 7+ majors…and Chris DiMarco might have a couple! There was a ton of depth in Tiger’s heyday, just as there is now.

Sens: No player of any era dominated the way Tiger ruled that era, and nothing can take away from that. If you want another measure of Tiger’s greatness, consider that after four back surgeries, he almost won the last two majors. Now, if you want to compare eras, let’s talk about what Hogan would have done in this era. Maybe a Zach Johnson type? But you can’t say that. The Hogan mythology is just too strong. And for various reasons I won’t mention here, people feel freer to take shots at Tiger.

Wood: Not worth my time thinking about this. ID-I-OT-IC. Someone trying to get some attention. I do, however, firmly believe Shakespeare dominated a bad era of writing.

Bamberger: This has been written before, but Tiger’s greatness is great by any standard, comparing him to other golfers, other athletes, other anythings. The margins of victory are like nothing golf ever saw before. The relentless consistency can be compared only to what Big Jack did. Woods caught Phil at the height of his powers, but he did not have a Lee Trevino, a Billy Casper, a Tom Watson and a Gary Player constantly nipping at his heels. They were, to borrow from Alan, studs in any era.

6. In light of a recent spate of golf course brawls and club slams, what’s the worst thing you’ve done — or witnessed, if you prefer to remain anonymous — on the course out of frustration with your game (or your competitor?)

Zak: Threw a wedge into a pond once. Just deceling all round and couldn’t stop. Sand wedge was swimming. I’ve matured since 😉

Shipnuck: Nothing too serious, to be honest. I like to play with mellow dudes – if you act like a turd you’re definitely not getting a second invite.

Sens: Clubs wrapped around trees. Windshields kicked out of carts. Bags tossed in lakes. And most depressing of all, a guy taking his frustrations out on a goose.

Ritter: Watched one of my friends lose his cool (after several beverages) and chuck his clubs into a series of lakes and ponds, one at a time over several holes. It was a long-burning meltdown that was simultaneously hilarious and frightening.

Bamberger: Caddying on the European tour, I saw an Argentine player slap himself across his face, hard, after missing a short putt. I saw a South African player give the middle finger to the kid scoring his group after a heinous hole. I’ve had my moments but I’d have to go into therapy to recall them. I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.

Wood: Scott Anderson, a teammate of mine in high school, had earned medalist honors in a nine-hole match we played vs. a rival school. We finished and everyone was milling around the 18th green as the coaches tallied the scores.

One of the opposing team’s players went to the coaches and said “Scott Anderson got a two-shot penalty for throwing a club.” We all thought he was joking, but apparently their team instituted this rule after a few too many tantrums were thrown at their host club, upsetting the membership. Genuinely perplexed, Scott asked where he had thrown a club, and his playing partner told him, “On the 5th hole. You threw your club out of the bunker.” Scott said “I didn’t throw it. I tossed my club to my bag after hitting out because I had to rake the bunker. Why would I throw the club when I got it up and down?”

Our coach kind of rolled over as we were going to win the match either way and accepted the two-shot penalty. What happened next made Scott a legend. He asked the coaches (and all of us in tow) down to the bunker in front of the 18th green to demonstrate what had happened. He took his sand wedge, a ball, and the rake down into the bunker, played a shot out, tossed his club out of the bunker to his bag which lay about three yards away, and raked the bunker, just as he had described.

Then he looked at the coaches and said, “To me, that’s not throwing a club. THIS IS THROWING A CLUB!” At which point Scott took out two or three more clubs and helicoptered each of them down the 18th fairway a good 40-50 yards, demonstrating the difference.

Maybe bad form, but honestly one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever witnessed on a golf course.