By Alex Myers
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Ken Duke’s Saturday 65 at the Players won’t go on a plaque anywhere at TPC Sawgrass, but it probably should. Just ask one of the players who shares the Stadium Course’s scoring record.
“What course was Ken Duke playing today? Can anyone tell me? Was he playing across the road?” said Jason Day after a third-round 73. “I think that should be the course record.”
The stats also back up that assessment.
Day shot 63 on Thursday to tie the actual course record, a score Colt Knost matched on Friday. But both came on a much different track than players faced in the third round. After the field shot a combined 272 under par the first two days, Saturday’s cumulative total was 273 over par with a scoring average of 75.59.
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That 10.59 strokes between Duke’s score and the field average for the day is the biggest such differential in tournament history. The previous best was Davis Love III's 64 in the final round of the 2003 tournament when he beat the field average by 9.90 strokes. Of course, that round came on a Sunday and led Love to a win, but at least on paper, Duke's 65 more than stands up.
The main reason for Duke's incredible round? The 47-year-old journeyman was impervious to TPC Sawgrass' slick greens. Duke led the field on Saturday with his 5.892 strokes gained putting, needing just 24 putts to complete his round. On a day where there were 149 three-putts or worse, Duke never needed more than two putts. So how did he do it?
"Well, I'm just a player on the PGA Tour," said Duke, who made five consecutive birdies on holes 3-7. "They're all good out here, and when you get some good numbers and make some good putts, the scores are there, and that's kind of what happened today."
Fair enough. But it certainly impressed his peers.
"The greens were the fastest I've ever putted," said Russell Knox. "I looked up on the board and saw Ken Duke shot 65 and was like, what? That's the best round of golf ever, probably."
That might be a bit of a stretch, but the best round of golf ever at the Players? We're not going to argue.