Call Jim “Bones” Mackay psychic, clairvoyant, or just generally observant. No matter what you call him, give Phil Mickelson’s longtime caddie and the first-time announcer his credit — he absolutely nailed this:
On moving day at the Open Championship, a sunny day that NBC’s Dan Hicks likened to a “Saturday at Palm Springs,” Royal Birkdale was available for the taking. South African golfer Branden Grace seized it to shoot 62 for the round, the first that has ever happened in major championship history.
There have been plenty of 63s shot in major tournaments — a total of 31 recorded by 29 different golfers, most recently by Justin Thomas at last month’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But through 441 events and 157 years, the 62 remained ever elusive. There was a near 62 at this very course in the 1991 British Open, when Jodie Mudd set a new course record (breaking the one that Ian Baker-Finch had set just the day before with a 64), but he couldn’t quite get there.
After a masterful first 16 holes with seven birdies and no bogeys, Grace stepped up to the 17th — one of only two par-5s at Royal Birkdale — needing to shoot 1-under in the final two holes to finish with a 62. Following a first shot into the fairway, Grace lined up for his approach in silence. His caddy left him alone, and the NBC/Golf Channel announcers were quiet, seemingly afraid to take even a breath and ruin the moment.
Grace birdied the penultimate hole and had the eyes of all the golf world on him — even his fellow players:
He walked up to the par-4 18th needing just a par for his 62. His opening shot landed in the first cut of rough, and he rocketed his second a bit behind the green. But he had two putts to finish it off, and after dropping the first one close to the hole, he closed it out and made history.
Saturday was a historic day at Birkdale, and Grace will be remembered as the first to ever shoot a 62 in a major. But he may not even be the only golfer to finish today’s round with a 62 — when Grace walked off the course, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth had yet to tee off, and Dustin Johnson was 5-under through 12 holes.
Joe House talked about Grace earlier this week on the ShackHouse podcast, calling him a “bad-weather player” — a good player to bet on given the typically windy and rainy conditions at the Open. He ended Saturday at 4-under, which was good for second place when he finished his round. Turns out he was a solid bet even in good weather.