Dustin Johnson shot the most disappointing 60 in golf history on Friday at The Northern Trust. Of course no 60s are ever truly disappointing (especially not when you’re leading the event like D.J. is), but Johnson’s start — 11 under thru 11 holes — combined with his close (even over his last seven) left everyone watching wondering, “What if?” from one of the most talented players in this sport’s history.
Incredibly, it also wasn’t the only 59 watch on the day at TPC Boston. Scottie Scheffler shot golf’s magic number in the morning wave before D.J. went out and played the first 11 in 11 under but coasted home to 60, which is the lowest round of his career. Only twice in PGA Tour history have two 59s been shot in the same year. Today, they were nearly shot in the same round.
Johnson’s 60 started just as Scheffler’s 59 was ending (this is the second time two 60s or better have been shot on the same day). As soon as you looked up from the chaos of Scheffler’s 59 — the 12th sub-60 score in PGA Tour history — D.J. was already hard at work on what would have been the 13th. It started like, well, no other round in the history of the sport has started. Johnson opened birdie-eagle-birdie-eagle-birdie and was an astonishing 7 under thru five holes.
The rest of his front nine was an absolute show. He hit every green in regulation and needed just 11 putts to shoot 27 on the front side of the course, which was three better than Scheffler had done it several hours earlier and one off the best nine-hole score in PGA Tour history.
“Everything was going well today,” Johnson said. “I was striking it really well, I was giving myself really good looks and obviously I was rolling the putter nicely. Anytime you’re that many under thru 11 holes, you’re putting well. I made some nice putts, but also I hit some really good shots.”
The back nine was more of the same to start. Birdie on No. 10 and birdie on No. 11, and everyone was googling whether 54 had ever been shot by anyone anywhere, regardless of level, tour or length of course. This guy, who shot consecutive PGA Tour rounds of 80-80-78 was rolling toward 55 or 56 with just a third of the course remaining. A 59 seemed not only inevitable but like it would be the worst possible score he could shoot.
“Obviously you start thinking about it, but I was just trying to play one shot at a time,” Johnson said. “I was hitting it good. I knew if I could just get myself on the greens and give myself some good looks, I could definitely have a chance.”
Johnson certainly had chances as he hit eight more greens on the back nine but cooled off with five consecutive pars, though some of those par putts on holes 12-16 were fairly clutch given the stakes. Then came a two-hole close that would decide whether, for the first time ever, two 59s would be shot in the same round.
D.J. gave himself a 11-foot look on the par-4 17th that nipped the right edge but stayed out. Then on the very reachable par-5 18th, after a mediocre drive into the right rough, he laid up to 83 yards. An up and down from there would have meant 59, but he hit his approach to 23 feet and couldn’t make the putt.
The 60 was in some ways the perfect summation of his entire career. Shots that make you drop whatever you’re doing to watch him perform, but ultimately a bit of a letdown considering how lofty he sets your expectations of his own talent. It’s a conundrum, not one he’s concerned with, but one that can sometimes be frustrating as a fan.
“No, [I’m not disappointed],” Johnson said. “Anytime you shoot a number like that you’re never going to be disappointed. I’m definitely not. I feel like the game is in good form. I need to come out tomorrow and do the same thing.”
Still, just like he has so many times over the course of his Hall of Fame career, Johnson leads the tournament at 15 under. He’s two up on Cameron Davis and a fellow by the name of Scheffler, who may have clipped him by one on Friday but has work to do to run him down over the final two days.