It was eight birdies and zero bogeys that Grace used to shoot his 62, the first in major championship history.
Getty Images // Warren Little
On a clear, calm day in Southport, England, one of golf’s most hallowed records was finally broken.
Branden Grace, a 29-year-old from South Africa, became the first player in major-championship history to shoot a sub-63 round, when he brushed in a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole for an 8-under 62.
Like a middle-distance runner’s quest to spin a sub-4-minute mile in the 1950s, a 62 was for decades one of golf’s most unbreakable barriers. In 157 years of majors, a 63 has been shot 31 times by 29 players — Vijay Singh and Greg Norman did it twice — most recently by Justin Thomas last month at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Many of the game’s biggest stars had near-misses. In the opening round of the 1980 U.S. Open, Jack Nicklaus blew a three-footer on the final hole for 62. In the second round of the 2007 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods’s 16-foot putt on the final hole hit the edge of the cup and spun out. Woods later referred to his score as “62-and-a-half.” In the opening round of last year’s British Open, Phil Mickelson lipped out his own 18-foot putt for history. Said Mickelson afterward: “I want to cry.”
But there were no tears on Saturday at Royal Birkdale, as Grace’s bogey-free round propelled him into a tie for second place. The weather remained ripe for low scoring, making it conceivable that the floodgates open for multiple sub-63 rounds.
Johnny Miller, who hit all 18 greens while shooting 63 in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, watched the record fall from a perch in the NBC broadcast booth.
“That’s gotta be fun for him. That is sweet,” Miller said.