SOUTHPORT, England (AP) – Branden Grace set the new standard for scoring in the majors Saturday with a 62 in the British Open, the lowest score ever recorded in 442 major championships.
Grace pounced on a serene day that was ideal for scoring at Royal Birkdale. He moved to 8-under par for the round with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th, and then wrapped up the record with a beautiful lag from behind the 18th green to 2 feet.
From the time Johnny Miller shot his famous 63 in the final round at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open, a 63 was posted in the majors 30 more times, most recently by Justin Thomas in the U.S. Open last month at Erin Hills.
No one ever got lower until Grace.
“Look at that number! That is sweet,” Miller said from the broadcast booth at Royal Birkdale.
Grace went out in 29 and seemed to stall until a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th put him at 7 under with two par 5s ahead of him. He missed an opportunity on the 15th hole, but drilled his tee shot on the 17th and easily hit the green for his two-putt birdie.
“A special day,” Grace said.
With his name in the record book, still to be determined was whether he had a chance to add his name to the claret jug. Grace, who made the cut by one shot, finished at 4-under 206. He was two shots behind Jordan Spieth, who was on the range still warming up.
And there were plenty of low scores offered on this day at Royal Birkdale.
Grace was oblivious to all of it, falling into a steady diet of fairways and greens, and making enough putts.
“I had no idea whatsoever that was the lowest,” Grace said. “I was so in the zone, playing so well. I was just trying to finish the round without a bogey. Sometimes it helps not knowing these things.”
And it helped playing with Jason Dufner and his dry sense of humor. Dufner shot a 66.
“It’s kind of neat to be a part of history,” Dufner said. “It’s a great experience for him. It was semi-cool for me.”
Dufner was among those who had a chance to first break the 63 barrier. He had a 10-foot birdie putt for 62 in the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill that he left short.
Grace’s record score came one year after Phil Mickelson almost became the first to shoot 62 until his birdie putt on the 18th at Royal Troon in the first round swirled around the edge of the cup.
Tiger Woods had a vicious lip-out in his bid for 62 in the second round of the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. And then there was Jack Nicklaus in the first round of Baltusrol for the 1980 U.S. Open. He missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 63.
Grace’s record score came 44 years after Miller was the first to shoot 63 in a major. Miller’s record was 33 years after Lloyd Mangrum was the first to shoot 64 in a major, at the 1940 Masters.
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