No doubt­ing Thomas af­ter fear­less 59

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Honolulu

Staring over the top of a bunker on his fi­nal hole, the pru­dent play for Justin Thomas might have been to make sure he got out of the sand and avoided a big num­ber.

But Thomas didn’t care about a big num­ber. It was about golf ’s magic num­ber.

“This isn’t a time for me to lay it up,” Thomas said on Thurs­day at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

He hit a 5-iron so clean and so high that it car­ried 207 yards into a light Pa­cific breeze to 15 feet on the par-5 ninth hole at Wa­ialae Coun­try Club. Thomas poured in the eagle putt for an 11-un­der 59, be­com­ing the sev­enth player to post a sub-60 round in PGA Tour his­tory.

For a brief mo­ment, he re­acted as if it were lit­tle more than the per­fect fin­ish to a great open­ing round. He stretched out his put­ter that was still in his left hand, smiled and punched the air with his right fist. Only when he looked over at Jor­dan Spi­eth and Daniel Berger, the two wit­nesses to a 59 that Thomas made look easy, did the sense of his­tory start to hit him.

Berger thrust his arm in the air. Spi­eth, his best friend in golf since they were 13, crouched as the ball neared the cup and de­liv­ered a left-handed fist-pump as both raced over to con­grat­u­late him.

“I think I got more ex­cited from see­ing them get ex­cited than I did my putt go­ing in,” Thomas said.

“I thought about it go­ing up to the green. I’m like, ‘If I make it, what am I go­ing to do?’ It’s not like win­ning a tour­na­ment. You have three days left to try to play well. So I didn’t re­ally know how to re­act. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thurs­day mean that much.”

It was dif­fer­ent from the feel­ing he had four days ago when he won the SBS Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons at Ka­palua. That was his third vic­tory on the PGA Tour, and the 23-year-old Thomas is sure to win more.

“I don’t have many chances to shoot 59,” he said.

Jim Furyk was the last player with a sub-60 round when he closed with a record 58 at the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship last sum­mer. Furyk also had a 59 in 2013 at the BMW Cham­pi­onship, join­ing the ex­clu­sive group that in­cludes Al Geiberger (1977 Mem­phis Clas­sic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Ve­gas In­vi­ta­tional), David Du­val (1999 Bob Hope Clas­sic), Paul Goy­dos (2010 John Deere Clas­sic) and Stu­art Ap­pleby (2010 Greenbrier Clas­sic).

This was spe­cial be­cause Thomas made it look so easy.

He be­gan by pitch­ing in for eagle from 35 yards. Thomas never hit more than a 7-iron into the par 4s at Wa­ialae on a per­fect day for scor­ing — very lit­tle breeze, fast fair­ways and soft greens. That 7-iron was chipped un­der the trees and into a bunker on No 8 when he was try­ing to save par.

His only bo­gey came on his sec­ond hole, the par-3 11th, when his tee shot went into a bunker and he missed an 18-foot par putt.

Du­val was the only other player to shoot 59 with an eagle on the last hole. Furyk at Con­way Farms is the only other player to shoot 59 with a bo­gey.

Spi­eth was more ner­vous than Thomas and far more demon­stra­tive. Thomas had a 30-foot birdie putt on the sev­enth that looked good un­til burn­ing the edge. Spi­eth clutched the back of his neck and was still ask­ing how the putt didn’t fall when he walked onto the next tee.

SAM GREENWOOD / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

Justin Thomas (left) is con­grat­u­lated by Jor­dan Spi­eth af­ter chip­ping in for eagle on the 10th hole dur­ing the first round of the Sony Open at Wa­ialae Coun­try Club on Thurs­day in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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