‘Mr. 59’ Al Geiberger isn’t surprised the club he founded is growing

When Al Geiberger shot his famous 59 in 1977, the first sub-60 round in the history of the PGA Tour, he was sure other 59s would follow.

“Then I remember when it went for 14 years, I thought, you know, maybe nobody will,” Geiberger said. “I figured if I could do it, then somebody else could. And then year after year for 14 years no one did. And then (Chip Beck) does it on a little simple course over in Las Vegas (in 1991). And they predicted it beforehand. It was a substitute course (in that year’s tournament). And then they waited eight years for (David) Duval’s here at PGA West.”

For Geiberger, now 86 and a long-time desert resident, there isn’t much surprise in two 59s on the PGA Tour in the space of 14 days. Cameron Young shot an 11-under 59 in the third round of the Traveler’s Championship on June 22. Thursday, Hayden Springer fired a 12-under 59 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic. Both recent sub-60 rounds were shot on courses where a 59 had been shot before.

“There are all these weeks where I go, well, okay, Hawaii, (The American Express), Travelers, a couple of others that I keep my ear on. John Deere is one,” Geiberger said.

For years Geiberger’s 59 was the gold standard for a round on the PGA Tour, overshadowing even his 1966 PGA Championship victory and earning him the nickname Mr. 59. Now Geiberger’s round is one of 14 sub-60 rounds on the tour, 13 59s and Jim Furyk’s 58 in the Travelers event in 2016. Geiberger, who won 11 times on the regular tour and 10 times on the PGA Tour Champions, says there are reasons more sub-60 rounds are being shot these days, including eight in the last nine years.

“It’s the combination of the equipment, the ball, the grooming, the golf course grooming. And it gets down to putting I guess and the mowers for greens are so good now,” Geiberger said. “And the guys know they can do it.”

That wasn’t necessarily true when Geiberger shot his 59 in the third round of the 1977 Danny Thomas tournament at Colonial, considered one of the toughest courses on the tour at the time and still considered a difficult layout. Geiberger points to some other changes in the game, including professional golf’s current trend toward drivable par-4s, as a reason low scores including sub-60s rounds seem more common those days.

More: Golfers who have broken 60 in the history of pro golf

Al Geiberger, 76, is the founding member of golf’s ’59 club,’ the original “Mr. 59,” who on June 10, 1977, made history during the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club.

“When they shoot one now, it’s okay, let’s start comparing,” Geriberger said. “Let’s compare par, let’s compare courses, conditions. That gives them something to talk about. When I did it there was nothing to compare it to.”

Geiberger never fails to mention that while some of the more recent 59s were shot on par-70 or par-71 courses — Furyk’s 58 was 12-under par on the par-70 TPC River Highlands in Connecticut — Geiberger’s 59 was 13-under par on a tough Colonial course.

“Duval’s was 13 under, too,” he said. “The rest of them, I kind of lose track. It’s funny, nobody talks much about that 58. It’s like 59 is the magic number. Because it breaks 60, I guess.”

Geiberger says a series of physical issues including a bad knee have stopped him from playing golf for almost 18 months, though he does hit a few balls from time to time. But he still keeps an eye on the tour and weeks like the John Deere Classic where 59s seems to pop up.

“They seem to come in spurts, and at certain courses,” Geiberger said. “Who knows? The week’s not over yet.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek