WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Stuart Appleby understands the scrutiny that might come with shooting a 59 on a par-70 course.
The Australian won the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday and became the fifth PGA Tour player to hit golf’s magic number. His milestone came less than a month after Paul Goydos had a 59 at the John Deere Classic.
Appleby was the first to reach 59 on a par-70 course; Goydos’ course was par 71. The three other 59s were on par 72s: Al Geiberger at the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck at the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational and David Duval at the 1999 Bob Hope Classic.
“Look, I’ll debate it with you. I agree,” Appleby said. “I can see both sides of the fence. It is a number. I shot that number. But who says par is supposed to be 72? There’s a lot of great courses that aren’t 72.”
Golfers had raved about an Old White course that already yielded J.B. Holmes’ 60 and D.A. Points’ 61 on Saturday, and Jeff Overton’s 62 on Friday.
Appleby was Points’ playing partner in the third round. On Sunday, it was Appleby’s turn — and he could sense something different.
“I felt relaxed today,” he said. “I walked a bit slower than I normally do. I’m a pacey sort of person. Not in playing, the golf sense, but from an energy point of view. Today, I felt much more — I slowed myself down and just, yeah, it was pretty comfortable.”
The 59 broke the course record of 60 set by Sam Snead in 1950 and matched by Holmes. Appleby said Snead should be given more credit because of the equipment used 60 years ago.
“I think I would have to shoot a 56 to even compare to something like that, for sure,” Appleby said.
Making just one bogey all week, Appleby birdied the final three holes, then watched third-round leader Overton’s long birdie try on the par-3 18th slide just past the cup to give Appleby a one-stroke victory.
Appleby’s 11-under round put him at 22 under. Overton, playing three groups behind Appleby, shot 67 to finish at 21 under.
In remaining winless in five years on the Tour, Overton had 34 putts in the final round, three-putting three times.
“I played great, hit a lot of great shots,” he said. “You can’t win golf tournaments when you putt it that bad.”
The news wasn’t all sour for Overton. His third runner-up finish of the year moved him from 10th to fourth in the points table that will determine eight automatic spots for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team — Tiger Woods fell from seventh to ninth.
Appleby, who earned the $1.08 million winner’s check, easily beat his previous career low of 62 in the 2003 Las Vegas Invitational.
The end of a four-year winless drought came during Appleby’s 11th straight week of tournament play. And he isn’t done yet — he plays the Bridgestone Invitational starting Thursday in Akron, Ohio.
“I’m not getting any younger,” the 39-year-old Aussie said. “I want to be a yearly holder of a trophy for sure. It’s not easy. Four years. I should be getting older, wilier and more experienced and that’s maybe how I’ll use some of that timeline … to make sure I don’t ever have a break like this again.”
Appleby’s switch earlier this year from a conventional putting grip to a left-hand low approach finally paid off.
“I was a little tired of the way I had been putting conventional,” he said.
He made some long putts with the new grip at the Tavistock Cup exhibition matches in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m like, ‘man, that speed was beautiful,” he said. “The transition, I’ve never done anything quite like that, so (it’s) a bit out of the blue for me.”
Appleby trailed Overton by seven strokes to start his round, shot 6-under 28 on the front nine and eagled the par-5 12th before settling for three straight pars.
He got his momentum going again just in time with birdies of 15, 10 and 11 feet on the final three holes.
“I knew what it was all about,” Appleby said of his birdie on 18. “I knew I had to make it — I knew I had to make it for the tournament, I knew I had to make it to have a 59. I’m sitting there going ‘how many opportunities are you going to get to do this?’
“The cards had been laying out perfectly for me all day. Why wasn’t I going to do one more? I just got a good look at it and just — bang — it felt good.”
Brendon de Jonge (65) finished third at 17 under. Tied at 15 under were Points (70), Woody Austin (63), Paul Stankowski (64), Roger Tambellini (65) and Jimmy Walker (67).
Jim Furyk, who was among seven golfers tied at 14 under, improved from fifth to third in the FedEx Cup points standings. Ernie Els and Steve Stricker remained 1-2. Overton moved up six spots to sixth and Appleby jumped from 82nd to 24th.