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Finally, what gives Duval's 59 the gravity to rival history's greatest rounds was the unprecedented way in which he was able to mesh power with ball control. "He has an amazing follow-through, which is a key to accuracy and power," says Miller. "He has tremendous range of motion and total extension to the target."
Duval was hitting on all cylinders on Sunday. He hit 11 of 13 fairways in regulation, 17 of 18 greens in regulation and had only 23 putts. All told, Duval hit approaches inside of five feet on half of the holes. "It was an easy 59," said Jeff Maggert, one of Duval's playing partners, who felt like a duffer while shooting a 66. "I've never seen anyone hit the ball that close for an entire round. It was sort of like a no-hitter. I didn't want to say the wrong thing. Finally, after he stiffed it for the fourth straight time on a par-3, I said, 'I didn't realize we were playing par-2s today.' "
Such bursts of birdies were what marked Miller's remarkable prime in the mid-'70s. While the 63 at Oakmont, which took him from six strokes off the lead to victory, has been called the greatest round ever by Golf Magazine, Miller thinks his 61 in the final round of the '75 Tucson Open might have been better. But as proud as he is of those accomplishments, even Miller, who watched the final round of the Hope from his house in Napa, Calif., gives the nod to Duval's 59. "His distance control was phenomenal," Miller said. "He hits that wonderful high fade with his irons that is the scoring shot when the greens are firm. Where David has the advantage over me is length. He is a gifted ball striker, like guys such as Nick Price, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins and myself, but he's so much stronger than any of us. He plays a much shorter course, so if s easier for him to hit it close."
Duval's 59 will only get better with age, especially if he wins the majors that are essential to making a mark in golf history. Should that happen, Sunday's round will be considered his coming out, his statement, much like Nicklaus's 64 in the third round of the '65 Masters.
Nicklaus raised the bar for all golfers that day in Augusta, just the way Duval and Woods are doing today. They are ushering in a new era of young, well-conditioned, technically proficient players who bomb the ball down the fairway, hit high, soft-landing iron shots that nestle next to the pin, and they putt aggressively. In the future Duval's 59 will be looked on as a key point in the continuum.
Of course, he will never fess up to any of this. "If I sit here and anoint myself the best player, that doesn't help me get better," Duval said. "That doesn't help me win tournaments. That doesn't do anything for me. But improving does."
Duval will surely improve, and as he does, it won't be long before 58 becomes the new magic number.