News & ToursJuly 15, 2010

A major 63 recalls rounds that preceded it

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Having researched the 63s shot in major championships last year for a feature story in Golf World, when the wind was down Thursday after a day and night of rain I figured the all-time mark would be in reach if not eclipsed on a vulnerable Old Course.

"I would say that's the one, if it's not windy and it's soft," Vijay Singh said then of the prospect of the record potentially being broken at the British Open. Singh knows the subject matter, being, in addition to Greg Norman, the only man to shoot a 63 twice in a major (1993 PGA Championship, 2003 U.S. Open)

Rory McIlroy led a scoring assault on the Old Course Thursday morning by shooting the 24th round of 63 in a men's major championship. For a little while it appeared as if Louis Oosthuizen, who was eight-under with two holes to play, might match McIlroy and make it the second time that two 63s were recorded on the same day in a major. Ooosthuizen, however, bogeyed the 17th and parred No. 18 to shoot a 65. (Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both shot 63 in the first round of the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.)

McIlroy became the 22nd man to shoot 63 in a major, first accomplished by Johnny Miller in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. McIlroy certainly will want to emulate Miller and win the championship in which he shot 63, because a majority of those who have shot 63 haven't won.

Miller, Jack Nicklaus (1980 U.S. Open), Raymond Floyd (1982 PGA), Norman (1986 British) and Tiger Woods (2007 PGA) are the five who scored 63 en route to a victory, which puts those rounds ahead of the 63s shot by players who didn't win.

McIlroy admitted thinking about shooting 62 while playing No. 17, and he missed a 4 ¿ foot birdie putt there that would have made him 10 under. He is not the first to quake amid the possibility, though. Nicklaus had a three-footer on No. 18 to shoot a 62 on his grand day at Baltusrol but missed it.

Miller's 63, which allowed him to make up a six-shot deficit after 54 holes and occurred on a day when only three other players broke 70, remains the best of the 63s, followed, in one man's opinion, by the 63s of Norman, Nicklaus, Floyd and Woods -- the latter two both occuring in the cauldron of Oklahoma August heat.

Although a 63 by a 21-year-old on the Old Course is pretty sporty, unless McIlroy (the youngest to tie the record) wins, it will not match up to one shot by the oldest golfer to record a 63 (Gary Player, in the second round of the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek). Player was 48, the next-lowest score that day was 68, the field average was 74.381 and the layout had punishing Bermuda rough.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday in Scotland, 41 players were three under or better but none of the afternoon starters were on pace to join McIlroy and the rest of the 63 shooters. Zach Johnson, three under through eight holes, had the best start going.

-- *Bill Fields

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