Ryan Moore of the US flirted with golf’s magical jackpot, a 59, before he bogeyed his penultimate hole on the way to a sizzling 10-under 61 in Thursday’s opening round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
Moore, who started out at the par-four 10th, missed the green to the left with his tee shot at the short eighth, but was otherwise delighted with his spectacular form in near-perfect scoring conditions in the Nevada desert.
“It was one of those days that you just keep putting it in play,” said the 29-year-old Las Vegas resident, who has played the TPC Summerlin layout countless times. “You know you’re going to have a bunch of pitching wedges, nine-irons, eight-irons into these greens. As solid as I’m hitting it right now, that’s just kind of my key. I know I’m going to have enough pretty darn good birdie chances if I’m just in the fairway with them. The bogey there on my 17th hole, No. 8, I wasn’t too happy about, but it was great to bounce back with a birdie on the ninth hole.”
Moore, who won his only USPGA Tour title at the 2009 Wyndham Championship, piled up nine birdies and an eagle, at the par-four 15th, to end the opening round of the Fall Series event with a one-stroke lead over Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge.
Americans Tim Herron and USPAGA Tour rookie John Huh opened with 63s, while compatriots Justin Leonard and Chris Kirk, along with Swede Jonas Blixt, returned 64s.
World No. 21 Nick Watney, the highest-ranked player in the field, carded a 66, while US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, whose 12-man team stunningly lost to a resurgent Europe after being outplayed in the concluding singles at Medinah on Sunday, opened with a 68.
Moore commanded the spotlight on Thursday as he raced to the turn in a scintillating seven-under 29, raising hopes of becoming only the sixth player to shoot a 59 on the USPGA Tour.
He picked up further shots at the first, fifth and seventh, before his red-hot momentum stalled with his bogey at the eighth.
“I’ve just been playing good, solid golf lately,” said Moore, who two weeks ago tied for third in the final event of the USPGA Tour’s regular season, the lucrative Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia. “On a golf course like this, I’m probably more comfortable. I’ve played it more this year than any other. It was just one of those nice days. Got off to a great start, seven-under on the front nine, and just kind of cruised the next nine.”
American Al Geiberger was the first player to break 60 on the USPGA Tour, shooting a 13-under 59 in the second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic.
Chip Beck was the next to do so, in the third round of the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational at Sunrise Golf Club, while David Duval became the third, in the fifth and final round of the 1999 Bob Hope Classic.
Paul Goydos achieved the feat when he shot a 59 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic in 2010, while Australia’s Stuart Appleby achieved it during the final round of the Greenbrier Classic to clinch victory less than a month later.