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Sutherland Fires Champions Tour's First 59; Moves into First at Dick's Sporting Goods Open


Kevin Sutherland became the first player in Champions Tour history to card a 59. The 50-year-old Californian fired a 13-under 59 Saturday at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, N.Y., in the $1.85 million, 54-hole Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

Sutherland, whose only victory on the PGA Tour came in the 2002 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and is playing in only his third tournament on the over-50 circuit, where he's a rookie, got off to a fantastic start, carding seven birdies - and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole - on the front nine to make the turn in 9-under 28.

On the par-35 home half he tacked on five more birdies before coming to the 18th. At the par-4 closer, Sutherland had a chance to become the first player ever to post a 58 in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, but missed his par attempt from six feet for his only bogey of the day.

Sutherland, who opened with a 71, had 12 birdies overall. Following the eagle on No. 5, he sensed something special was afoot. "This could be a good day," he told reporters later about his thoughts at that juncture.

When his bunker shot on the par-3 seventh went into the cup, he knew a low score was in the cards. "That was my biggest break of the day," Sutherland said of the sand shot. "I guess you need a margin of luck to shoot a 59."

Some of the players who had already finished their rounds watched Sutherland's finish. "I wasn't expecting that," he said. "It blew me away. It's emotional, really, to see those guys, the support you get out here.

"Who would have thought you'd bogey the last hole and still feel great?" he added.

Just six players have shot a magical 59 on the PGA Tour. The group includes Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic), Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic), Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic) and Jim Furyk (2013 BMW Championship).

One of Sutherland's playing partners, Gene Sauers, was almost overwhelmed by Sutherland's performance. "It kind of felt like I was shooting 80 myself," Sauers told reporters. "It was awesome to see. He made a lot of putts, a lot of long bombs, made one out of the bunker (on No. 7), eagle on a par-5 - he played great. Hit a lot of greens; everything was working."

The third player in the group, Jeff Hart, decided it was better to be quiet so as to not jinx Sutherland. "I made the decision that it's probably not too good to keep talking to him," Hart said. "So I left him alone, which is the smart thing to do when a guy is going like that. Like I say, it's like pitching a no-hitter or perfect game, you don't bring it up. But I did say on 17 I'm tired of seeing great shots on every hole."

Sutherland's heroics - which came early in the day - gave him enough impetus to saor to the top of the leaderboard at 14-under 130. One stroke behind is Steve Lowery (65), while two back is John Cook (67).

Alone in fourth at 11-under is Scott Hoch (64), and sharing fifth at 10-under 134 are Bernhard Langer (67), John Riegger (67) and Olin Browne (69). Browne opened with a 65 to be the co-leader with Cook heading into Saturday's second round.

Langer, the runaway leader in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup points' race thanks to four victories this year - including two majors, carded six birdies and a bogey.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/champions/leaderboard.html.