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The numbers behind Jim Furyk’s 58

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On Sunday of the Travelers Championship, Jim Furyk set a PGA Tour record with a score of 58 at TPC River Highlands. Furyk’s 58 will overshadow his 59 in the 2nd round of the BMW Championship in 2013, however, I could argue that it shouldn’t when you look at the average score for the field in the 2nd round of the BMW Championship.

Furyk_58_scoring_average

Most people will only remember the 58, though, since it is the Tour’s new official record. It was also done in the final round, which is even more remarkable as the overwhelming majority of low scores in PGA Tour events occur in the first and second rounds.

The usual thinking about a player “going low” is that they do it through incredible putting. On Tour, however, go-low rounds feature incredible ball striking. There is some debate for amateurs, as the average amateur that has his or her career low round is more likely to putt substantially better. For example, a 10-handicap who shoots an even-par 72 may putt substantially better than normal compared to how well he or she strikes the ball. But when you’re talking about the PGA Tour, particularly with a player shooting 58, a player’s ball striking has to be off the charts in order to accomplish the feat.

Going a step further, good ball striking is far more than hitting greens in regulation and Furyk’s round illustrates that point. While Furyk did hit all 18 greens, it was how close he hit those approach shots that gave him the opportunity to shoot 58.

It all started with Furyk’s performance off the tee, as he missed only one fairway (the par-4, 7th hole). One reader noted that out of all of the players who shot 59 on Tour (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby and Furyk), only Duval would be considered to be long off the tee. This is an interesting point, but I believe the reason is that in order to reach the level of shooting 59 on Tour, a golfer has to be hitting great approach shots from the fairway. And not to take anything away from Duval’s round, but that was at a low-scoring course where the rough has traditionally been almost non-existent. The ability to get the spin needed from the fairway appears to be paramount to shooting a ridiculous score like a 59.

Here’s a look at Furyk’s approach shot data per hole. 

Furyk_58_proximity_to_hole

One common myth in golf is the Green Zone (75-125 yards) is vital to great golf. In this round, however, Furyk only had two shots from the Green Zone and he hit them to an average of 24.2 feet. The Tour average proximity to the cup from 75-100 yards from the fairway this year is 17.6 feet, so he was actually below average from that range.

Here’s how Furyk performed from certain distance ranges versus the Tour average. 

Furyk_58_scoring_zones

Obviously, Furyk did most of his damage from 125-150 yards. Not only did he hit those shots incredibly close to the hole (and knocked one in for eagle from 135 yards on the 3rd hole), but the highest frequency of shots came from the 125-150 yard range. With that being said, if Furyk does not hit those three shots from 200-225 yards as close as he did, he does not shoot 58.

Did Furyk putt well? Sure, he gained +3.313 strokes on the putting green, but it was not like he was making “bombs” out there.

furyk_58_putting

The longest putt Furyk made was from 23.7 feet. He did make four putts from 14.1 to 16.8 feet, but also missed a 10.3-foot putt on No. 14 and a 7.6 foot putt on No. 15. However, a little luck is involved, as three of those four putts from 14.1 to 16.8 feet were uphill and the other putt was straight and downhill. His misses on Nos. 14 and 15 came from the 10 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on the fall line, bigger-breaking putts that are more difficult to make.

As the Tour slogan says, “These Guys Are Good,” and Furyk’s performance in every facet of the game was downright exception on Sunday… but it was his phenomenal ball striking allowed him to set a Tour scoring record.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Anderson Knight

    Aug 27, 2016 at 12:04 am

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  2. Wang

    Aug 8, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    What – that round looked a lot like your mom??

  3. Curt

    Aug 8, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Should be an asterisk for any low rounds shot on a par 70 course. Much easier than on a normal par 72 layout, of course!

    • COGolfer

      Aug 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Lift clean and place is definitely easier than a par 72. Lets wipe those guys off the record books as well.

      http://golf.about.com/od/progolftours/qt/lowest18score.htm

    • Ryan

      Aug 9, 2016 at 7:08 am

      I’m getting really sick of hearing this. Par is an arbitrary number. What’s the difference between a par-4 averaging 4.5 strokes, and a par-5 averaging 4.5 strokes? Par is completely irrelevant, in my opinion. What if 2 of those long par 4’s are 5’s for the members? Then how do you feel about the score? Field average score is par for the day, and I believe his round at Conway Farms is the lowest one of the sub-60’s, and it was on a par-71. On a side note, I wonder what his differential would be in the GHIN system.

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