LA QUINTA, Calif. — Few tournaments on the PGA Tour have seen the kind of history that he American Express tournament has experienced over 65 years.
From five victories by Arnold Palmer to consecutive wins by Johnny Miller to John Cook playing a four-hole playoff in 5-under par, the remarkable always seems to find its way into the desert tournament. But for all the Hall of Fame winners, the individual great shots and the long-time association with Bob Hope, there remains one day that stands above the others in the 65-year history of the event.
With scoring at this year’s American Express again plunging into the low 60s day after day, it’s a good chance to reflect on and appreciate again David Duval’s final-round 59 in the 1999 tournament on the Palmer Course at PGA West. The greatest round in the history of the tournament still resonates 25 years later with golf fans not only in the desert but around the world.
Perhaps Al Geiberger’s original 59 on the PGA Tour in 1977 in the third round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic on a tough Colonial Country Club course was a better round of golf, but Duval’s 59 remains a close second in most fans’ minds.
A few things to remember about Duval’s historic round:
It was a ball-striking clinic
Nine times in the round Duval hit his approach shot inside of six feet. The longest putt he had to make in tallying 11 birdies and one eagle was 10 feet. Yes, he made all of his putts, but that’s because he was knocking down flagsticks the entire day
It was not the end of the tournament
People have the idea when they see Duval dancing around after making a six-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to cap the 59 that Duval had won the tournament at that moment. In fact, Duval had started the day seven shots back of the 72-hole leader Fred Funk (it was a five-day, 90-hole tournament back then) so Duval’s round was played in front of the leaders. It wasn’t until Steve Pate missed a putt on No. 18 playing in the final group that Duval’s victory was secured. Had Duval shot 59 and not won the tournament, it would have been a different story.
It was all about the back nine
Duval shot 31 on the front nine, including a birdie on the tough par-4 ninth hole of the Palmer Course. But he truly caught fire on the back nine with…