Prior to last week’s Open, no one had ever shot a 62 in a major. There had been 27 instances of recorded 63s in major championship history, but no one had ever broken that mark … until Branden Grace teed off on Saturday morning. The South African, who came into the round trailing leader Jordan Spieth by 10 strokes, had the round of his life on Moving Day. Not only did he make eight birdies and no bogeys, but he also hit all but two of Royal Birkdale’s greens in regulation!
What is most endearing about this story, perhaps, is that the 29-year-old didn’t even realize that he had just shot the lowest round ever in major championship history.
A Mighty Comeback-Ilroy
Rory McIlroy did not get off to the start that he was hoping for at Royal Birkdale last week, making bogeys on five of his first six holes on Thursday and falling 10 shots behind leader Jordan Spieth before even making the turn. That disastrous start forced his long-time caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, to take the four-time major champion aside and deliver a stern, yet brief, pep talk that inspired McIlroy to play better. “You’re Rory McIlroy,” Fitzgerald purportedly told the Northern Irishman. “What the #@$& are you doing?” Obviously, those words gave McIlroy the shot of confidence he needed because the 28-year-old turned his fortunes around almost immediately afterwards. After making the turn with a five-over par 39, McIlroy made four birdies and no bogeys on his back nine to salvage a 71 and stay in contention for the week. Wee-Mac carried that momentum into his round on Friday, posting an extremely impressive 68 in horrendous conditions to climb even further up the leaderboard, and then fired off rounds of 69 and 67 to finish the week tied for fourth place!
There is no doubt that, in less than a year on the PGA Tour, Spanish rookie Jon Rahm has already made a name for himself as one of the world’s best players. However, over the last month, Rahmbo has also garnered a bit of a reputation for playing a little loose with the rules. Three weeks ago, the 22-year-old drew some heat for not properly replacing his ball mark during his final round of the Irish Open — a tournament that he went on to win by a decisive six strokes. Even though the European Tour ruled that Rahm used “reasonable judgment” to replace his ball and did not punish the Spaniard with a two-stroke penalty, many questioned the young superstar’s integrity for not calling the penalty on himself after he had a chance to review video of the incident after the round. Rahm took the following week off to prepare for the Open, but it did not take long at Royal Birkdale — just 17 holes, to be exact — for the rookie to find himself in the middle of yet another rules controversy. After finding the fairway with his tee shot on the penultimate hole, Rahm moved a small vine in front of his ball that he believed to be a loose impediment. However, that vine turned out to be attached to the ground and its removal drew the attention of his playing partner, Lee Westwood. Even though Rahm claimed that his lie was not at all improved by removing the weed, a rules official was called in nonetheless and the rookie was tentatively assessed a two-stroke penalty. However, that penalty was dismissed after Rahm’s round, when the rules committee announced that there was not enough evidence to justify the penalty. “At the end of the day, it’s not my call,” Rahm told reporters following the decision. “I can describe what happened as honestly and truthfully as possible, as detailed as can happen, and they make the judgment call. It’s up to them!”
The Open always provides a handful of bizarre moments each year and that trend continued last week with quite a few odd occurrences. For starters, Masters champion Sergio Garcia aggravated his right shoulder mid-round on Friday after getting into — and losing — a fight with one of the course’s many dense gorse bushes.
James Hahn also had a strange moment in his second round when he tried to hit a flop shot over a tree onto the 4th green. Unfortunately, Hahn did not hit his ball high enough and it lodged in one of the tree’s many branches.
Click here to watch James Hahn’s shot get stuck in a tree.
Justin Thomas got off to a hot start on Thursday with a 3-under 67, but completely derailed his chances at a Claret Jug on Friday when he couldn’t get his ball out of the deep fescue on the sixth hole. On his first attempt, Thomas’ club got stuck in the grass on his downswing and the ball did not advance at all. On his second try, Thomas managed to make a full follow-through, yet the ball somehow traveled backwards. The 23-year-old then lost his golf ball after firing it even deeper into the fescue on his third attempt! Thomas then dropped a ball in the long grass, hit his seventh shot of the hole onto the green and two-putted for a quintuple-bogey 9.
The strangest moment of the week, however, had to be Jordan Spieth’s adventure on the 13th hole on Sunday. The Texan missed his tee shot to the right, and then spent nearly 20 minutes discussing with rules officials where he could take relief. After a lengthy delay, Spieth dropped a ball onto a part of the practice area near the equipment vans and then proceeded to hit a bullet directly at the green. Incredibly, the 23-year-old walked off the hole with only a bogey!
Shot of the Week
On Thursday, Charley Hoffman made the first eagle on Royal Birkdale’s opening hole since 1983. However, we have to give this week’s honours to Canadian Austin Connelly for his incredible eagle hole-out on Saturday!