Looking for Mr.58 in 2012

by Jeff Skinner

As the PGA Tour season gets back in action at The Tournament of Champions there are plenty of prognosticators out there with predictions for the 2012 season.  We all do it. From all the analysts on The Golf Channel to every golf writer to the bloggers, we all like to “guess” what will happen this season.  Who will be the man this year?  Will Tiger win, and will he win a major?  Is it time for Westwood and Donald to claim their first major?  Is 2012 the year that Fowler breaks through?  And so on, you get the idea.

But I’ve come across a very intriguing prediction:  Someone will break the tour’s scoring record in 2012.  That’s according to Lucius Riccio, Ph.D. an engineer that obviously has a passion for golf and likes to crunch numbers.  Riccio presents his case in Golf Digest.

Al Geiberger was the first to shoot the current 18 hole record of 59 way back in 1977.  Since then four golfers has equaled his feat:  Stuart Appleby and Paul Goydos became “Mr.59” in 2010, Chip Beck in 1991 and David Duval in 1999.

Duval’s may be the most dramatic as he eagled the eighteenth hole in the final round of The Bob Hope Classic to win.  But each and every 59 is certainly dramatic but Dr. Riccio is of the mind that there will be a 58 shot out there soon.

He cites the increasing number of low rounds in the past few years, “low scores are on the increase: 101 rounds of 62 or lower in the past three years.”  He also states that 35 years is a long time for any record to go unbroken and even points out that an amateur, Patrick Cantlay, shot a 60 at the Travelers.  Maybe the inference is that if an amateur can go that low the professionals indeed will shatter 59.

It is amazing to see the number of low rounds and the golfers that own them:  Here are the low-score leaders since 2002:

(6) Steve Stricker: 62, 61, 62, 61, 60, 62
(6) Hunter Mahan: All 62s
(5) Chad Campbell: 61, 61, 62, 62, 62
(5) Adam Scott: All 62s
(4) Zach Johnson: 60, 62, 62, 60
(4) Pat Perez: 62, 61, 60, 61
(4) Joe Ogilvie: 61, 62, 62, 62
(4) Briny Baird: All 62s

As far as the courses that yield these super low scores you can bet that they never happen at The U.S. Open.  Since 2002 these are the top three courses that see super low scores.  The Bob Hope Classic has seen the most 62 and lower rounds with 35.  The Timberlake is next with 31 and the Valero Texas Open had 28. These courses traditionally are not set up to keep low scores off the board and the numbers prove that.  According to Riccio,”most of them are shorter than the average tour course. Second, the setups are generally easier, as are the greens. And third, they have a high percentage of short par 4s (420 yards or less). After par 5s, short 4s give up the most birdies. So the Nicklaus Course at the Bob Hope, for example, with eight par 4s under 420 and four par 5s, provides at least 12 “birdie” holes.”

He is absolutely right.  That has been one of the knocks on many of these tournaments, that they yield too many birdies and don’t test the golfers.  But if there is a 58 out there it could likely come at one of these courses. Riccio also includes The John Deere Classic as a potential scene of a 58.  There were ten 62’s and lower at The Deere since 2002.

He picks Steve Stricker as the best candidate to become Mr.58 with Zach Johnson as the next choice.  They both have numerous super low rounds under their belt and they play plenty of tournaments.

There are a lot of numbers behind Dr. Riccio’s theory and the thought of a 58 happening on tour this year is amazing.  If there is a 58 shot on the tour this season it will be the highlight of the year.  If Steve Stricker turns out to be Mr.58 it couldn’t happen to a better guy.


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