Jack Nicklaus didn’t do it. Arnold Palmer didn’t do it. Tiger Woods didn’t do it. But Branden Grace…he did it.
On Saturday at Royal Birkdale, Grace achieved golf history: the first-ever 62 in a men’s major tournament.
Thirty-one golfers have carded a 63 in a major championship, most recently Henrik Stenson in last year’s Open Championship. But until now, no golfer had been able to bring home that final stroke. Grace did that with a tense up-and-down at Birkdale’s 18th, closing with a knee-knocking two-foot putt that rolled slowly into the cup.
Grace, a South African whose best performance in a major was a third-place finish at the 2015 PGA Championship, benefitted from incredibly favorable conditions: blue skies and no wind. He was one of many players to dive deep below par, and his performance was strong enough to vault him all the way into a tie for second (at the moment; the leaders hadn’t teed off when Grace finished) at the Open Championship.
“It was a special day,” Grace said afterward. “I had no idea it was the lowest [in history] at all. I was so in a zone, and trying to finish the round without a bogey.” He did exactly that, recording eight birdies, including five in the front nine.
Worth noting: Royal Birkdale is a par-70 course, meaning that a player “only” needs to shoot eight under, rather than 10-under on a customary par-72 course. Plus, the course is playing 7,026 yards, several hundred yards shorter than most major courses. And — if you’re really in a mind to nitpick — the greens were triple-rolled prior to Saturday’s play, meaning that most putts rolled straight and true.
Still, you play the ball as it lays, and you play the course as it’s laid out. Grace’s achievement is singular in golf history, for however long it lasts.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.