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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The ET Finally Gets a 59... No, Two 59s... Wait, Never Mind

In many ways it seems symbolic of the problems plaguing the European Tour's Nelson Mandela Championship.

No one has ever shot an official 59 in an ET event. Peter Uihlein came close earlier this year at the Alfred Dunhill Links but had to settle for a 60.

The Nelson Mandela Championship has been plagued by bad weather this week. The start was moved up a day -- from Thursday to Wednesday -- in order to avoid conflicts with the late Nelson Mandela's state funeral on Sunday. But rain kept the first round from being completed... then the second round... and organizers finally had to cut the event to 54 holes. Even so, on the fourth day of the event (Saturday) the second round is yet to be completed.

That didn't stop the fireworks though. Spain's Jorge Campillo and South African Colin Nel both shot 59s within moments of each other. Imagine their excitement at finally breaking through and making history!

Imagine their disappointment on finding out that neither will make the ET record books after all.

Jorge Campillo

(The photo came from the ET's summary of the round.)

Here's the problem: The Mount Edgecombe Country Club has been absolutely saturated by all the rain, forcing officials to allow preferred lies. You know what that means -- through the green you pick up the ball, clean it, and replace it to ensure that the ball isn't plugged or covered with mud. But that also means you aren't "playing the ball as it lies." You don't make the record books that way.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. The course had to be shortened to make it playable. The commentators noted that the length of some holes and their designated par didn't really make any kind of sense. Overall, the length of the course was reduced to somewhere between 6300 and 6500 yards -- hardly the test of golf that organizers had hoped for.

Both players can still be proud of their accomplishments. By my count, over 40 of those who have finished their rounds still couldn't break par. Nel's 59 brought him up to T28 (-4), ensuring that he'll make the cut. And Campillo's 59 catapulted him all the way to T2 (-11), even though he's still 3 strokes off the lead of England's Daniel Brooks.

But the ET is still waiting for someone to break that huge psychological barrier and get it into the 50s for the first time. They knew it would be hard; they just didn't know they'd have to break a weather barrier as well.

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