SPORTS

Perfect storm in gorgeous weather for low scores at Waialae

  • Justin Thomas reacts to his putt on the 17th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

    Justin Thomas reacts to his putt on the 17th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Justin Thomas reacts to his birdie putt on the 18th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

    Justin Thomas reacts to his birdie putt on the 18th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Justin Thomas hits his ball off the third fairway during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

    Justin Thomas hits his ball off the third fairway during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)  (The Associated Press)

The way Justin Thomas is playing the Sony Open, someone might have to shoot 59 to catch him on Sunday.

The way Waialae Country Club is playing, someone could.

Jordan Spieth thought he might see a double dose of history in Honolulu. He was playing with Thomas in the opening round and threw a left-handed fist pump to celebrate his best friend's 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a 59. Two days later, Spieth was on the putting green when he raced over to the edge of the ninth green in time to see Kevin Kisner line up a 9-foot eagle putt he needed to make for a 59.

Was watching one 59 not enough for him?

Spieth smiled and kept his eyes trained on Kisner, whose attempt at the ninth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history slid by on the right. Spieth walked over and bumped fists with Kisner as he walked into the scoring trailer to sign his card.

A round of 60 is still a pretty good day.

Isn't it?

Zach Johnson, who went into the final round seven shots behind Thomas, shot a 61 on Friday and no one blinked. It's been that kind of week at Waialae, where players have been cautious to describe the ease of the golf course without taking away from anything Thomas — and then Kisner — have done.

This is only the second time in PGA Tour history that a course has yielded a 59 and a 60 in the same tournament. The other was the John Deere Classic in 2010, and both scores were on the same, rain-softened day at the TPC Deere Run. Steve Stricker opened with a 60, and Paul Goydos was one better.

What's rare about this week is that the two scores were three days apart.

Waialae, a par 70 that features two par 5s that close out each nine, will never be mistaken for a U.S. Open venue. It's never been this easy, either. A warm sun over the last two weeks have left the fairways running fast, so even the two holes that have been converted into par 4s for the tournament (Nos. 1 and 13) are not as daunting.

The greens are relatively flat, especially compared with the Plantation Course at Kapalua last week. The challenge typically is in getting it close to the hole from the fairway because it's hard to judge how much the ball will roll out when it gets on the green.

But these greens have been soft, so soft that players have been taking dead aim at the flag.

The third element is the wind — or the lack of it. Whether it's the trade wind or the Kona wind, it's always blowing at Waialae. Just not this week. In the opening two rounds, there was barely enough to move a frond on the royal palms that line the fairways.

It's a perfect storm in gorgeous weather.

Not to be overlooked is the evolution of low scoring on the PGA Tour. The better these guys are, the lower the scores relative to the conditions. That's not any different from other sports. Pitchers throw faster in baseball. Players shoot better in basketball. Football players are bigger and faster. It's hard to measure in some team sports, with changing rules. It's easy to measure in golf, much like it is with speed sports, such as the four-minute mile.

Al Brosch was the first player to shoot 60 on the PGA Tour in the 1951 Texas Open. That score was matched six times over the next 26 years until Al Geiberger earned the nickname "Mr. 59" with the first sub-60 round in tour history at the 1977 Memphis Classic. It took 14 more years before Chip Beck shot 59 in Las Vegas, and then eight more years before David Duval shot his closing 59 in 1999 at the Bob Hope Classic.

The record now is Jim Furyk, who shot a 58 in the Travelers Championship last summer.

Players love any score that starts with the word "fifty," and even though Furyk has the PGA Tour record, a 59 is still considered golf's magic number.

But expand the view to include a 60 — after all, it's only one stroke higher — and consider how much has changed in the last five years. There have been 41 rounds of 60 or lower since Brosche first posted his 60 in 1951.

Eleven of those rounds have been shot in the last five years. Six of those rounds at 60 or lower have occurred in the last 12 months.

Don't be alarmed if golf keeps trending lower, and don't lose perspective.

Scores have been getting lower ever since the first championship in 1860 at St. Andrews. Jack White broke scoring barriers in 1904 at Royal St. George's when he was the first player to break 70 and won the British Open at 296, making him the first to post four rounds under 300.

Last summer, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson each shot 63, and Stenson won at Royal Troon with a score of 264.