How insane ’62’ history became a British Open reality

SOUTHPORT, England — All it took was a look out the window Saturday morning on the Lancashire Coast. A day after the wind howled and rain hammered to wreak havoc on the second round of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale, there was an eerie calm.

The sun was shining over the fairways and fescue and the grass and leaves on the trees were motionless with the wind taking the day off.

“A scorer’s paradise,’’ Paul Casey later would call it.

Speculation of players going crazy low became rampant amongst players playing and media covering the tournament.

“There was talk that 62 could be on,’’ Casey said.

“Don’t tell Johnny I said this, but there is a 62 out there today,” former Phil Mickelson caddie Jim “Bones’’ Mackay said early on the NBC broadcast, on which Johnny Miller, author of a 63 in the final round of his 1973 U.S. Open win at Oakmont, was the color analyst.

Casey, in fact, said his coach, Peter Kostis, told him before his round: “Why don’t you go do it?’’

“Branden Grace has now done it,’’ Casey said.

Indeed he has.

A year after Mickelson came within a less than an inch of making history at Troon with a 62, Grace completed the job in his third round Saturday, becoming the first player ever to shoot 62 in a men’s major championship.

And here is the amazing thing: When Grace put the finishing touches on his 8-under masterpiece with a tap-in par on the 18th hole, he had no idea he had made history.

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“I didn’t know what was going on on 18, I promise you,’’ Grace said. “I had no idea that was the lowest and Zack [Rasego, his caddie] came up and said, ‘You’re in the history books.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Obviously now it makes the day even sweeter.

“Sometimes it helps not knowing these things. When you get on a run like that, you stop thinking about golf. It’s one of the best ball-striking rounds of my career. I was so in the zone and playing the round so well … I just played flawless golf.’’

Many men — 31 to be exact — had shot 63, the first being Miller.

Miller called it “about time’’ someone shot 62, adding, “That’s got to be fun for him … look at that number. That is sweet.”

Grace, 29, a South African who has seven European Tour titles and one on the PGA Tour, carded eight birdies and no bogeys in his third round. His performance was textbook. He hit 16 of 18 greens, getting up-and-down from over the 18th green to set the record in the 442nd major championship ever played.

Grace began the day at 4-over and in 45th place, 10 shots out of the lead after shooting 74 on Friday. By the time he walked off the course Saturday, he was 4-under and just two shots out of the lead held by Jordan Spieth, who was just beginning his round.

Spieth went on to shoot 65 to get to 11-under, which is seven shots clear of Grace. That, however, does not dismiss Grace from Spieth’s radar.

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“He’s a great player,’’ Spieth said. “I played with him in the final round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and pending one swing he won the golf tournament. He’s somebody you’ve got to watch out for [Sunday], because he’s not scared to do it again.’’

This brings us to the question now for Grace: Now what?

Golf is littered with stories of players who have failed to back up a previous day’s low round.

Interestingly, none of the six players who shot a third-round 63 in a major went on to win the tournament.

“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. I have to stick to the same routines. If I can do the same [Sunday], I should be in there with a chance.

“I’m going to be there [Sunday], but I’m not going to be in the lead. I think it would help knowing that I’m still going to be in the same position that I have to chase out there. And that’s either going to work or not going to work.’’

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