Why new stats say David Duval's 59 might be history's greatest sub-60 round

By Garry Smits
Published on
Why new stats say David Duval's 59 might be history's greatest sub-60 round

Here's the scary part about David Duval's 59 to win the 1999 Desert Classic: based on the analytics developed by the PGA Tour since then to measure putting, it could easily have been lower ... by several strokes.
But putting a fresh statistical face on Duval's score that day in the desert indicates that it might also have been the most dominant display of ball-striking of any sub-60 score in history.
The 2019 Desert Classic falls a week short of the 20th anniversary of Duval's magical day at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., the third 59 in Tour history and one of only two in the final round for the tournament winner.
Duval, a Jacksonville native, needed every shot to hold off Steve Pate by one, capping it with a 6-foot eagle putt at the par-5 18th hole. Duval finished the tournament at 26-under, a week after he won the Tournament of Champions by nine shots at 26-under. In those nine rounds (the Desert Classic was 90 holes), Duval was 52-under and averaged 66.7.
The PGA Tour calculated the strokes gained putting index for eight of the 10 sub-60 scores on the Tour (the shot-by-shot breakdown for Al Geiberger in 1977 and Chip Beck in 1991 aren't available, which is required for a complete statistical analysis) and Duval's 1.97 putting strokes he gained on the field that day was the lowest. Paul Goydos had a 8.15 strokes gained for his 59 in the 2010 John Deere Classic, and the other players all had a strokes gained putting index of 3.31 or more.
Duval missed birdie putts of 12, 15 and 20 feet that day. He is one of only three players to break 60 who didn't need a hole-out (Beck and Stuart Appleby are the other two) and Duval's birdie and eagle putts all came on rolls of 10 feet or less.
Duval hit all but one green and all but two fairways. He hit 15 approach shots to within 20 feet or less of the hold. Twelve of his approaches were with 8- or 9-irons and wedges.
The Episcopal graduate has another anniversary coming up: the 20th of his 1999 Players Championship victory. After winning the following week in Atlanta, Duval's streak that began with three victories in a row to close the 1997 season reached 11 titles in 34 starts.
This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to