Branden Grace made history at Royal Birkdale by breaking the major championship scoring record and carding the first-ever 62 in the third round of the 146th Open.
Walking up the middle of the fairway on the 18th hole, having just had back-to-back birdies, Branden Grace's caddie Zack Rasego knew he was on the verge of making history. Grace however, was none the wiser – and perhaps that was the key.
Adrenaline must have been surging as his approach to the final hole flew past the pin, landing towards the back of the green and trickling off in to the rough, leaving himself a difficult two-putt for par.
In front of thousands of fans, an outstanding putt over the undulations of the green ended up just a couple of feet away, before he completed his final par-putt of the day to seal his name in both record books and on newstands with that impending ‘Amazing Grace’ headline.
With favourable conditions hitting the early starters, three 65s were already on the board early and talk of a possible 62 dared to be whispered around the course and in the media centre.
There have been thirty-one 63s and numerous near misses during majors, but 63 was a number that seemingly wouldn't be passed. The most recent 63 in a major was Justin Thomas' incredible nine-under feat during the US Open, where he eagled the 18th hole to card the lowest-ever US Open round in relation to par.
Phil Mickelson came incredibly close to a 63 during the opening round of The Open at Royal Troon last year, but the multiple major champion lipped out on the last for the elusive major championship record to remain out of reach for a little while longer.
Enter Branden Grace. It may have looked unlikely given the South African sat at four-over-par at the start of the day, but a birdie on the first hole set the early marker for Grace's round.
For much of what will become one of the most memorable rounds in golfing rhetoric, Grace's birdies came in pairs. He rolled in putts on four and five before more on eight and nine to make the turn in 29 – the joint-lowest front nine of the week with Matt Kuchar.
With a slightly slower start to the back-nine, it felt that the momentum with Grace had been slightly diminished. A birdie on the 14th left him needing two birdies in his last four holes, and with two par-5s left, it felt a near-guarantee Grace would get it done.
His birdie attempt slid by on the 15th, and having landed his approach to the 16th around 30-feet away, it seemed unlikely he would reach the record. Unbelievably, in it went, and another birdie on the 17th got him to 8-under-par for his round and in a tie for second at four-under-par for the tournament. The rest, which will now feature in the footage of Open and major championships for many many years to come, is history.
Asked if he was aware of the record, Grace said he wasn't. “I didn’t know what was going on on 18. I promise you.
“It was a special day. It was nice to start the day off with a birdie on the 1st. That always gives you momentum and some confidence, but I just played flawless golf. I think I missed two greens the whole day and the putter was hot. I missed a couple of shortish ones but I made a couple of bombs. I was just really concentrating on getting myself back in this tournament and giving myself a chance tomorrow.
“I obviously knew I was playing well and making the turn at five-under was pretty special. But I had no idea 62 was the lowest ever. My whole thing on the 18th was trying not to make birdie. I hit a great wedge in there, just got a flyer and made it tough for myself. When I knocked in the two or three-footer, Zack came up to me and said, ‘you’re in the history books’. And I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ Obviously now it makes it even more special.”
What you need to know about Branden Grace: 12 Questions
We caught up with Branden Grace a few months ago and got to know him a little better, from his dream Tour fourball and his favourite TV Show.
When did you first shoot under par?
I think I was 14 and I did it at my local course back home in South Africa.
One mulligan you could have?
My drive on the 16th at last year’s US Open. I’d love to have that one back (it went OB, cost him a double and wrecked his title hopes).
Your favourite course in the USA?
I love Oakmont.
Favourite course outside the US?
Fancourt Links. It’s where I grew up and where I love playing to this day.
Favourite non-golf sports event?
I’m a big rugby fan and I love going to watch and support the Springboks in international matches.
Favourite sports team?
If I score back-to-back two birdies I change my ball. It’s the same if I make eagle. On a good day, I can get through a lot of balls! (still to confirm if he did that during this round)
If I had to choose one, it would be Tin Cup
Not to be missed TV show?
My favourite TV show at the moment is Game of Thrones.
Favourite musician or band?
Red Hot Chilli Peppers are pretty cool.
Who’d be in your dream foursome?
My dad Peter and two old mates.
What about your dream Tour fourball?
Arnold Palmer, Ernie (Els) and Tiger Woods.