There's never been a 59 on the European Tour but Peter Uihlein gave it his best shot.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Cham-pionship almost witnessed a bit of history yesterday as the 24-year-old came within a whisker of scribbling that magical number down on his card. All he had to do was hole an eagle putt of 35 feet on his last hole at Kingsbarns. It was pretty straight-forward, really.
As his ball trundled towards its target, Uihlein's face became contorted with anticipation. The faces of the observing golf writers, meanwhile, remained contorted as usual. For a moment it looked like that little white rolling bundle would disappear into the cup, but it slid narrowly by and came to rest just a couple of inches shy.
It had been a heroic effort and, let's face it, a 12-under 60 is not a bad day's work. That score propelled Uihlein up into a share of third place on a cluttered leaderboard with a 13-under aggregate of 131 and left him just two shots behind the halfway leader, Tom Lewis.
"It was cool," said the laidback Massachusetts man as he reflected on his rousing rampage. Uihlein had been set to partner Huey Lewis in the pro-am contest until the gravelly-voiced singer was forced to withdraw. In Lewis' place came the Scottish Boys' champion, Bradley Neil, and the Blairgowrie lad suddenly found himself riding along on this American express.
It started on the 10th tee and grew in momentum with three birdies and an eagle before a further five birdies and another eagle over the last nine holes saw Uihlein thunder home in 29 blows.
It was ideal conditions for scoring. Dull, dry and with hardly a breath of wind, even this correspondent could have managed a couple of pars. Uihlein, who won the Madeira Islands Open earlier in the season and was runner-up in the Wales Open, took full advantage and pounded the largely defenceless links. His 60 was the 17th such number in European Tour history, since Welshman David Llewellyn started that particular ball rolling with one of his own in the Biarritz Open in 1988.
Only two weeks ago, Jim Furyk hit a 59 in the BMW Championship, the sixth on the PGA Tour, while Scotland's Russell Knox did something similar on America's second-tier Web.com circuit back in July. On this side of the pond, Frenchman Adrien Mork cobbled together a 59 en route to victory in the Challenge Tour's Moroccan Classic in 2006 but there's never been a sub-60 score on the main European circuit. They're knocking on the door though and the Dunhill Links could be the event that produces it. Branden Grace had a 60 in last year's event at Kingsbarns while yesterday's second round also featured a 62 and a couple of 63s.
"It was just one of those days," added Uihlein, the former Walker Cup player who has made such a big impact on European soil since going against the grain and opting to find his professional feet on this side of the Atlantic. "All of a sudden the cover was off the hole and the ball was going in. Everything seemed to go in for me. I was just kind of in the zone."
Given Uihlein's majesty, front-runner Lewis' neatly assembled seven-under 65 over the Old Course looked decidedly modest in comparison. It was good enough, though, to give the young Englishman the lead with a 15-under 129. At 155th on the money list, Lewis, who won the Portugal Masters in just his third professional start two years ago, is in real danger of losing his tour exemption but a return to the happy hunting ground of St Andrews has injected his survival bid with new vigour.
In his final year as an amateur in the summer of 2011, Lewis conquered in the Auld Grey Toon and lifted the St Andrews Links Trophy. "I remember I didn't go into that week with any great expectations," recalled the 22-year-old, who would go on to capture the silver medal in the Open at Royal St George's before taking the pro plunge after helping GB&I win the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. "I was playing badly and I was a bit annoyed with it. My expectations dropped and all of a sudden my game came good and I won. From there on, it was a great year."
The flying Dutchman, Joost Luiten, continued to mine the rich vein of form he has found recently as he hurtled into contention for a second successive tour triumph. The 27-year-old, who lifted his national Open on his last outing a fortnight ago, picked up an eagle and four straight birdies on his last seven holes at Kingsbarns in a 63 to finish just a shot behind Lewis on 130.
The six-strong posse on 13-under includes Tommy Fleetwood, the winner of the Johnnie Walker Championship during his last trip to Scotland in August, and former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson - while Fife's George Murray produced a late salvage operation at Carnoustie with three birdies on his closing five holes in a 69 to finish on the fringes of the top-10 with a 134. That was the same tally as Ernie Els, the two-time Open champion who blasted a 65 at a Kingsbarns course that had come under a fearsome bombardment.