Sam Saunders shoots 59 in 2017 Tour Championship first round
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Sam Saunders shoots 59 in 2017 Tour Championship first round

On the bubble of earning a PGA Tour card in the final event of the 2017 Tour Finals, Sam Saunders carded 12-under 59 in the first round of the Tour Championship at Atlantic Beach Country Club in Florida.

Saunders birdied the final six holes of his round on the par-71 golf course, capping it off with a 9-foot birdie putt to lock up the first sub-60 score on the Tour since Stephen Jaeger shot the first 58 in Tour history in July 2016.

Saunders entered the fourth of four Tour Finals events at No. 24 on the money list, with the top 25 in total earnings getting PGA Tour status for the 2017-18 season which begins next week with the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

RELATED: 59 Watch: Sub-60 rounds in professional golf

Starting on No. 10, Saunders birdied four of his first five holes before dropping his only shot of the day at the 168-yard par-3 15th hole. He birdied two of the final three holes on the side to turn in 5 under par. After a birdie on No. 2, his 11th hole, sandwiched in between pars to start his second nine, Saunders caught fire and birdied out to beat 60, the fourth sub-60 round in North American pro golf this year.

The mark comes three days after the one-year anniversary of the passing of his grandfather, the legendary Arnold Palmer. Palmer's all-time best round was 60 at his Latrobe Country Club in Latrobe, Pa.

Saunders carries a three-stroke lead into the second round, needing approximately $10,000 from the $1 million purse to assure his PGA Tour card next season.

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