Golfer Saunders off to hot start with 59

Atlantic Beach (United States) (AFP) –


Sam Saunders, who is the grandson of golfing icon Arnold Palmer, started quickly in the season-ending Tour Championship Thursday with a 12-under 59, becoming the seventh player in Tour history to break 60.

Playing on his home course at the Atlantic Beach Country Club, Saunders posted 13 birdies for a three-stroke lead over fellow Americans Matt Atkins and Steve Wheatcroft, who both shot 62.

Scoring conditions were ideal on Thursday as Canada' Ben Silverman and Tyler Duncan are tied for fourth with 63s. And with five others at seven-under 64, it means there are nine golfers within five shots of Saunders heading into the second round.

But only Saunders was able to break 60 with the help of three straight birdies beginning at No. 10. His only blemish was a bogey on the par-three 15th.

"It was fun. You know, it was a good time out there and it was a real special day. Certainly memorable," said Saunders. "Honestly, it just felt like a regular day at home playing our little money game and I got into a good rhythm. It was a blast."

Saunders joins Notah Begay, Doug Dunakey, Jason Gore, Willy Wilcox and Russell Knox as players to shoot 59 on the USPGA Tour's development circuit. At the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic, Stephan Jaeger became the first player in history to record 58 on the Tour.