- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - Bubba Watson was 7 under through nine holes in the second round of the Hero World Challenge, such a strong start that it might have led someone to declare a “59 watch.”

It rarely happens, of course, though it does lead to one question.

Isn’t the target now 58?

Golf established its magic number in 1977 when Al Geiberger shot 59 in the Memphis Classic. It was matched 14 years later by Chip Beck in Las Vegas, and then David Duval at the Bob Hope Classic (1999), Paul Goydos at the John Deere Classic and Stuart Appleby at The Greenbrier Classic (both in 2010) and Jim Furyk at the BMW Championship in 2013.

Then Furyk shot 58 at the Travelers Championship this summer.

Isn’t that the new standard? The new “watch?”

“Probably not,” Hunter Mahan said. “Fifty-nine is a special number in golf. It’s pretty sacred. Until there’s numerous 58s, it’s not going to change. To start out with a ‘5’ is a cool thing.”

Appleby says a “59 watch” should still apply out of the respect to those who have one. He was smiling because he’s one of them. He said when people have gone nearly 40 years thinking 59 was the number, that won’t change overnight.

“I guess it might have been like when Henry Ford invented the automobile, but people still talked about a horse-and-buggy,” he said.

The point of such a score is that it starts with a 5. Besides, no one would ever say that someone is on a sub-60 watch. There have been seven scores in the 50s on the PGA Tour starting in 1977 with Geiberger. But there have been 32 scores at 60 starting with Al Brosch in 1951 at the Texas Open.

“It’s still cool to be the in 50s,” Stewart Cink. “I don’t care if it happens once a week for the next 10 years, it’s still pretty cool for someone to get there.”

Furyk made par on the last hole at the TPC River Highlands to shoot his 58, and even he thinks a “59 watch” is still appropriate. Furyk said golf’s magic number on the PGA Tour lasted too long for it to be anything else.

“That barrier of 60 is still pretty cool,” said Furyk, the only player to have done it twice. “I still think someone is going to shoot 58, and someone is probably someday going to shoot 57. I hope I get to hold onto it like Geiberger did for 39 years. Other guys will shoot 58. But if 40 years from now someone shoots 57, that would be really cool. I’ll be in my 80s.”

One record that might last even longer - two rounds in the 50s.

“I think it will be longer before someone does it,” Furyk said.


RYDER CUP COMMITTEE: The U.S. Ryder Cup committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday by telephone, the first step toward picking a new captain. Attention has focused on Jim Furyk, mainly because he answered a hypothetical question at Sea Island that he would take the job if offered. He said he was not lobbying to be captain.

At some point after a captain is selected, the next decision will be how to pick a team.

Davis Love III, the winning captain and part of the committee, hinted that the entire U.S. team will be set before the Tour Championship. This year, Ryan Moore was the 12th and final player selected for the team after his playoff loss at East Lake.

The 2018 Ryder Cup is Sept. 28-30 in France.

“One thing we’ve got to really work on is picking this team, make sure we have a week to get everyone ready,” Love said. “Rushing off to Paris at the last minute when a guy has just made the team, throw him on a plane and we’re going to Paris, we’re wondering if that’s the smartest thing to do. That’s one of the discussion points.”

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods also are on the committee. The PGA of America is represented on the committee by Pete Bevacqua (CEO), Paul Levy (president) and Suzy Whaley (vice president).


KUMAR’S BIG DAY: One of the most unlikely victories last week was on the Asian Tour when Mukesh Kumar won the Panasonic Open India at Delhi Golf Club.

If the name doesn’t sound familiar, it shouldn’t outside of India.

Kuman turned pro in 1984 - that’s two years before Jack Nicklaus won his last major - and while he won 123 times on the domestic tour in India, he never played more than eight tournaments a year on the Asian Tour. In fact, he had played only 55 tournaments that awarded world ranking points over the last 20 years.

Kumar closed with a 70 in the fog-shortened Panasonic Open India and won his first Asian Tour event at age 51.

“I am very proud of myself,” Kumar said. “I have waited 32 years for this.”

He was No. 1,716 in the world and moved up to No. 487. His previous best in the world ranking was No. 707.


WEB SCHEDULE: The Web.com Tour Championship will return to Atlantic Beach Country Club, where it was never played.

Hurricane Matthew wiped out the final event of the Web.com Tour Finals, leaving several players without a last chance to earn PGA Tour cards because the new season started the following week in California at the Safeway Open.

Tour officials can only hope they didn’t make a mistake by not changing the date.

The Web.com Tour Championship was pushed back to a week that no other golf in America, hoping to capitalize on viewership (although all that matters in an event like that is who gets their tour cards). When a hurricane interrupted, there was no other option but to cancel it.

Next year it will be Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, which is the same week as the Presidents Cup. But the Safeway Open starts the next week.


DIVOTS: Adam Scott, who lives at Albany in the Bahamas, played the Australian PGA Championship last week and will remain Down Under through the holidays. But he sent his plane back to the Bahamas with a few passengers - Rickie Fowler, Russell Knox and his wife Andrea, and Jimmy Walker. One of the pit stops was in San Antonio to pick up Walker’s wife. Scott is not due back to America until the end of the West Coast Swing at Riviera. … The Arnold Palmer Invitational is offering a holiday sale of two Arnold Palmer collector lapel pins with the purchase of two tickets. The umbrella pins that Palmer wore daily have never been offered for sale. The will be available until Dec. 24 at www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com. … Hideki Matsuyama tied for last in the Hero World Challenge last year. That prompted Russell Knox to say, “I wonder if I should tank my final round. Do you think that will help me next year?”… The PGA Tour Champions released its 2017 schedule on Tuesday, with 26 official tournaments. Among those joining the 50-and-over circuit are “rookies” David Toms and Steve Stricker.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Dustin Johnson will end the year having earned the most world ranking points in 2016. He was followed by Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama.


FINAL WORD: “They don’t heckle in golf. Nobody even says anything. Heckled? Go play in Boston in the playoffs.” - Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

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