- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Meet Mr. 58.

Japan's Shigeki Maruyama, known as golf's Smiling Samurai, shattered the game's standard in the first round of yesterday's 36-hole U.S. Open Qualifier at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Va., posting a mind-numbing 58 the lowest competitive round recorded in the history of championship golf.

"Most of my shots were perfect this morning," said Maruyama, stating the obvious after hitting 17 greens and recording an eagle, 11 birdies and no bogeys on Woodmont's 6,539-yard, par-71 South Course. "I thought I had to play well this morning because the South is the easier course and rain is coming."

The 28-year-old Maruyama, who ranks 17th on the PGA Tour money list this season ($867,811), came into the day simply hoping to earn one of the 193-man field's 35 available spots for next week's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Instead, he earned a place in history, even if it comes with an asterisk attached.

Though Maruyama's score was the lowest ever recorded in a USGA-, PGA Tour- or PGA European Tour-sanctioned event, golf's governing bodies will not recognized the score because it did not come in tournament play.

Astoundingly, Maruyama, who first gained acclaim when he posted a 5-0 record in the 1998 Presidents Cup (Royal Melbourne) to carry the International team to a 20 1/2-11 1/2 victory over Jack Nicklaus' heavily favored U.S. squad, parred the first two holes and then played the final 16 holes 13-under. His most spectacular shot came when he holed a wedge for an eagle from 92 yards out on the layout's 381-yard 9th hole. His lone disappointment came at the par-5 18th. Maruyama reached the 561-yard hole with a driver and a 3-wood, but his 20-foot bid for eagle and a 57 curled six inches low, leaving him with a tap-in for the record tally.

The longtime record was set in 1977 by PGA Tour player Al Geiberger and since matched by four others. Chip Beck equaled the score at the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational. Two years ago, Notah Begay III and Doug Dunakey accomplished the feat in Nike Tour events. And last year David Duval equaled the record in the most memorable fashion, posting a final-round 59 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and surging to victory from seven strokes back.

Compared to those five performances, all posted in actual tournament play on tougher courses, Maruyama's score came in a qualifier on a relatively short layout set up to expedite play. That led some at Woodmont yesterday to question the validity of Maruyama's round.

"It wasn't like Duval's 59," Brad Faxon said. "Don't get me wrong, 58 is 58 it's a great score. But was it the lowest score in competitive history? No, because it wasn't in a tour event. Duval shot 59 on the last day of a tour event on a much tougher course. I mean, the South Course is like 6,600 yards long, the greens were soft and the rough wasn't really a factor. It's tough to say. It's a ridiculous score, but I'm not sure it's the best ever."

"I couldn't shoot 58 in a dream," Scott Hoch said. "But it wasn't in a tournament, so I don't think it counts as the lowest score ever."

Still, Maruyama's score was five strokes clear of the next best number (David Frost's 63) posted at Woodmont yesterday by the tour-quality field, snapping Bob Boyd's South Course record (61 in 1990) by three strokes.

"The man shot 58," Scott McCarron said. "I don't care if you shoot 58 on a pitch-and-putt. It's an official qualifier, and he shot 58. Can you find a better score than that in competitive history? No, so you've got to give him credit."

Maruyama was relatively modest after following his morning heroics with an afternoon 74 on the North Course to earn one of the 35 Open berths. In fact, he didn't even realize his morning 58 was the lowest score ever recorded.

"Really?" asked Maruyama, who speaks almost no English, raising both arms in a mixture of jubilation and astonishment when he was told of his accomplishment. "Yeah. I am very, very, very happy. I had never even shot 29 in nine holes before. Now I did it twice in a row."

Notes Tom Scherrer, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Kemper Open, celebrated by waking up at 6 a.m. yesterday and playing 10 hours of gut-wrenching golf at Woodmont. The 29-year-old Scherrer must have been fatigued after his effort at TPC at Avenel. He carded a 65 in the morning but slumped to a 75 in the afternoon, missing a qualifying playoff by three strokes… . Twenty-three players qualified yesterday at Woodmont for next week's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Thirteen more players in the 193-man field finished the 36-hole qualifier tied at 137 and will return to Woodmont at 8 a.m. today and compete in a sudden-death playoff for the final 12 U.S. Open berths. Yesterday's players competed on both Woodmont's North (7,045 yards, par 72) and South (6,539 yards, par 71) courses.

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