AKRON, OHIO, AUG. 23 -- Jose-Maria Olazabal of Spain had a shot at 59 -- the record low score on the U.S. PGA Tour -- and didn't even know it.
Olazabal parred the last four holes today for a 9-under-par 61 that set a course and tournament record for the Firestone Country Club and the World Series of Golf and gave him a four-stroke first-round lead.
He lipped out birdie putts of three and six feet on the 15th and 17th holes that could have given him a tie with Al Geiberger for the best score in tour history.
The 24-year-old Spanish star insisted, however, that thoughts of a 59 or records of any kind did not enter his mind until it was too late.
That information was passed along, he said, after he'd lipped out a six-foot birdie putt on the 17th, his last realistic chance to keep alive the chance of matching Geiberger's 13-year-old record set in the Memphis Classic.
Payne Stewart was second at 65. Larry Mize pitched in from 20 yards for one of his seven birdies in a round of 66.
Olazabal, making his first start in this winners-only tournament and on the course that has a long-standing reputation for length and difficulty, said he was concerned only with his relationship to par and did not realize Firestone played to a par of 70 instead of the more common 72.
He went 5 under par on the first four holes -- birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie -- and was at that figure at the turn despite a bogey. He went to 9 under with four consecutive birdies, ending with a 22-footer on the 14th.
He hit a 2-iron to three feet on the par-3 15th, but the putt lipped out. On the 625-yard 16th he flipped a sand wedge third shot to 10 feet, and missed again.
Despite driving into a divot on the 17th fairway, Olazabal got an 8-iron approach about six feet to the left of the cup. And that one too lipped out.
He finished with a two-putt par from about 22 feet on the 18th.
He missed only one green, the seventh, where he made bogey, and one fairway by inches.
The weather conditions were near ideal -- cool, cloudy, no wind. The course, however, played longer than its listed 7,149 yards due to wet fairways.
The course record of 62 was set by Denis Watson in 1984.