Branden Grace shot the first 62 in men's major championship history at The Open on Saturday and admitted he had no clue he had been putting for the milestone score at Royal Birkdale's 18th hole, writes Simon Lewis.
South African Grace, 29, achieved a feat never before seen in 442 majors since the 1860 Open Championship thanks to a bogey-free, eight-birdie third round in Southport as warm and calm conditions on the Lancashire links encouraged low scoring.
Yet as well as Grace was playing, he is insisted he was unaware he was on the brink of golfing history as he played the final hole needing only a par four to better the previous mark of 63 posted 31 times in the majors, 10 of them at The Open.
“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. You know, 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 five 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.
“Obviously, now it makes it even more special than what it was. My whole thing on the 18th was trying just not to make bogey. I hit a great wedge in there, just caught a fly, a little bit of a jumper and made it tough for myself. But obviously I knocked in the two-footer or three-footer. And Zack (Rasego, his caddie) came up and said, 'You're in the history books'. And I was like, 'What are you talking about?'
“So obviously now it makes the day even sweeter.”
Grace's 62 moved the South African from four over par to four under, two shots off the overnight lead held by American Jordan Spieth, who was teeing off for his third round as Grace was speaking during his post-round press conference.
“I feel I'm playing well,” Grace said. “And I just want to get out there again tomorrow and try to do something similar, just play some good golf. And obviously it makes me feel a lot better after the score I shot today.
“It was a special day. It was nice to obviously start the day off with a birdie on the first, made a nice putt. It always gives you some momentum and some confidence heading into the round. And then I just played flawless golf. I think I missed two fairways or two greens the whole day. The putter was hot. I missed a couple of shortish ones, but made a couple of bombs, which was nice. I was really concentrating getting myself back into this tournament, and giving myself a chance tomorrow.”
Grace's 62 bettered The Open record first set by Mark Hayes at Turnberry in 1997 and matched by nine others, including Jodie Mudd at Royal Birkdale in 1991 and Henrik Stenson 12 months ago at Royal Troon as he secured victory over Phil Mickelson in the final round.
The first 63 at one of the four men's majors was posted by American Johnny Miller on route to his 1973 US Open win at Oakmont.
The South African's feat was praised by former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie who told BBC Radio 5 live: “Mention all the greats of the game and not one has shot a 62. This is a momentous day.
“He will go down in history, the day Branden Grace broke the unbreakable record. If he does it again tomorrow, he wins The Open. It is incredible stuff.”