SOUTHPORT, England – Through all the years, through all the rounds, through all the shots, no man has ever shot 62 in a major championship.
Until Saturday, that is.
Branden Grace took apart defenseless Royal Birkdale with eight birdies against no bogeys to sign for the first 62 in a men’s major championship, leaping up the giant yellow scoreboards in the third round of the 146th British Open.
Yet Grace didn’t know he made history. His caddie, Zack Rasego, had to tell his boss he shot 62 after he putted out on the last hole.
“Let's get this out of the way – I didn't know what was going on on 18. I promise you,” Grace said. “I honestly didn't. I was just so in the zone of playing, hole after hole. I knew I was obviously playing really well, and making the turn in 5 under was pretty special. And I thought if I could make a couple more on the back nine, then it's going to be a great score. I had no idea that 62 was obviously the lowest ever.”
With nae wind, nae rain and soft greens, the 29-year-old South African went out in 29 strokes under bright skies and came home in 33, making birdies at the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, 14th, 16th and 17th holes.
“What a special day,” said Grace, who counts 11 pro titles on his resume, including the 2016 RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour. “It's always nice shooting a low number, whether it's any day of the week, whether it's in a tournament or with friends. And then finishing the round and then finding out what you've done makes it even better, it really does. And to do it at the Open Championship is pretty special. It's something I really enjoyed and something I'll remember forever, definitely.”
Before Grace’s historic round, 31 players had shot 63 in a major, the most recent authored by Justin Thomas in the third round of the U.S. Open in July.
Grace started the day 4 over and in a tie for 45th place and finished at 4 under and just two shots out of the lead held by Jordan Spieth, who hadn’t teed off yet when Grace finished his round. His best finish in 21 previous majors was third place in the 2015 PGA Championship.
The lowest round in a women’s major is 61, shot by Hyo-Joo Kim in the 2014 Evian Championship. Three players have shot 62 – Minea Blomqvist in the 2014 Women’s British Open, Lorena Ochoa in the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship and Mirim Lee in the 2016 Women’s British Open.
Jason Dufner, who shot 63 en route to winning the 2011 PGA Championship, walked alongside Grace and shot 66.
“It's kind of neat to be part of history,” Dufner said. “It's a great experience for him; semi-cool for me.”
Now Grace is in the thick of the race to the Claret Jug.
“It is always hard to follow a good round, because you go out with the same expectations that you are playing well," Grace said. "You should do something similar, and it doesn't always work that way. Tomorrow I have to stick to the same routines. Like I said, I am putting well, I'm feeling good about the putting. If I can do that tomorrow, then I should be able to give myself a chance at it.”